“No music?” This was one of the first reactions as I described our project to people at the Calvin Worship Institute Colloquium in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Our congregation received a one-year grant to experiment in gathering a community around contemplative practices, silent contemplation and meditation on scripture. As part of the grant we attended the colloquium with groups that represented about 70 different projects around worship.
I was talking to worship and music professionals, who have experienced church mostly with those two categories strongly intertwined. I have been to many services where music ministry eclipses the preaching ministry in the hearts of the gathered people. I have been to services where silence means no one talks over the sound of the solo piano with sustaining pedal fully engaged. I have been to services where silence meant a mistake had been made, someone missed a cue or the sound system had failed.
Now we are trying to establish a practice where silence is central. We are tapping into ancient practices that span Christian traditions as well as connect to many other faith traditions. There has always been a value given to seeking the divine in silence, though it has never been at the forefront of Christian practice. As The Still, Small Voice begins gathering this week, it will be interesting to see if contemplation can sustain a community.
While I talked with other groups at the worship conference, people were intrigued by the idea of quiet worship. They were used to putting so much time and effort into music ministries, inspirational drama, preaching and newer trends in embracing technology that the idea that one could worship without any of it was a surprise. My thought is that people are already coming into our churches overstimulated. Many have been staring at screens all week and answering the beeps and blips of emails, text-messages and phone calls. While some will find a release in stimulating worship with high production values, others need a place where they can step away and retreat for an hour.
The Still, Small Voice is seeking to be that place. We will explore worship at very basic level, using silence as the backdrop for an encounter with God. We will explore scripture at a deep level, allowing the words to percolate in our imaginations. We will explore community at a simple level, letting shared silence draw us together. The Still, Small Voice will gather on Saturday afternoons at 4:00 p.m. beginning on July 11, 2015. If you are in Falmouth and long for stillness and peace, come join us and listen for God.