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malcolm chamberlain

musings about the emerging church, mission and contemporary culture...

God is at large, intimately involved in his world in ways that the church is maybe just waking up to!


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Last Thursday's Dream in Liverpool City is well worth blogging about! It was led by one of the community members, Danielle, and was given the title 'ssshhh' - I knew that it was about the place of silence but didn't really know what to expect.

When we entered the worship space there was a simple set up - the room was dark, lit only by a projector-lamp, that lit up one of the walls with a slowly changing bubble pattern, and a candle in one corner of the room. There were cushions on the floor of the main space to sit on, and three smaller spaces - one with sheets of paper and pens, one with play-dough, and the other with candles to light - were set out at one end of the room.

We were told at the start that the entire service would be in silence - no background music at all (a bit of a departure for Dream!) At 5 minute intervals there were some passages (many written by Nenri Nouwen) projected on to a wall for us to reflect on - each collection of passages began with a screen stating how many minutes remained (i.e. "30 minutes left"... "25 minutes left"...). We were invited to use the space and quiet however we wanted, and to make use of the three set-out spaces as we felt appropriate (if at all). The service was to be 45 minutes long... 45 minutes of complete silence!

Now, I don't really do silence very well, so the thought of 45 minutes in complete silence was not a wholly welcome one. At first I wondered how I would use the time - should I go and play with the play-dough or draw pictures on the paper, or should I just sit still and read the projected passages when they came up? I resisted the temptation to move for a while and began to relax allowing my thoughts to be led by what I was reading on the screen... and time began to speed up! Sure, I made use of one or two of the spaces during the 45 minutes, but definitely not to fill the time - it all seemed to flow together (for me at least) as I engaged with God in a way that I seldom do when rushing from one thing to another.

Having struggled in the past with silent retreats, extended prayer times and the like, I came away from Dream last week thinking that maybe Henri Nouwen and others like him were on to something. Maybe silence is not such a bad idea after all! Thanks Danielle for taking a risk and departing from our norm, if indeed we have one!

On Silence
by Henri Nouwen

"Silence requires the discipline to recognize the urge to get up and go again as a temptation to look elsewhere for what is close at hand. It offers the freedom to stroll in your own inner yard, and to rake up the leaves there and clear the paths so you can easily find the way to your heart. Perhaps there will be much fear and uncertainty when you first come upon the "unfamiliar terrain", but slowly and surely you will discover an order and familiarity which deepens your longing to stay home....... whenever you come upon this silence, it seems as though you have received a gift, one which is "promising" in the true sense of the word. It promises new life. It is the silence of peace and prayer, because it brings you back to the One who is leading you."

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 11:06 AM


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