Posted on July 11, 2010


I worshiped for an hour in silence this morning at Grand Rapids Friends Meeting (Quakers) at Aquinas College Browne Center. It was very cool to have about half of those that came be college age. It is refreshing to hear young adults speaking of the importance of silence in a world noisily clamoring for our attention. A friend of mine once asked after hearing that we worship in silence . . . for an hour, “Well . . . then . . . what do you do?” I said, “we listen.” She said, “Oh”, in slightly startled fashion. What a concept. It is really hard to hear the still small voice within unless we listen . . . silently. One of the young ladies spoke today about how healing to her soul it is to take the time to be silent. Another young man said that he had been needing to take the time to be silent but hadn’t yet because it is hard to do on his own. He was glad he could do it in a group. I walked away carrying with me a quiet and listening mind and heart. It is then that my soul comes alive.

As we sit in silence, occasionally someone speaks up with a “vocal ministry” to the group. This is something that has been laid on their heart, during the silence, for the group to hear. After going for six months I spoke for the first time. I wanted to write it down so I would remember what was laid on my heart:

“When I come here I sense an openness that is hard to find in today’s society and churches. This openness seems to be nurtured by the silence. (Nobody is telling anyone anything. Words are spoken as a gentle offering from my heart to yours). I sit in silence with my hands open expressing my desire to live an open life.
Open eyes to see and honor the soul of each person.
Open ears to hear the heart behind the words of each person.
Open mind to absorb ideas that are different and new.
Open heart to all people . . . ALL people.
Open will to seek how to serve others in love, gentleness, and peace.”

Each time there is a vocal ministry (sometimes up to 5 in a meeting), I feel like I am walking away with the impact of a full sermon for each one. I usually only remember and take to heart 3 or 4 sentences of a 45 minute sermon anyway. It is very enriching. Mostly though I walk away with a heart full of peace.

“The Quaker way is a spiritual path for our time that is simple, radical, and contemporary”
(from Quaker Quest of Friends General Conference)

With an open heart and mind we listen to each other. Because each person is honored and trusted to follow their inner light, we listen to each other to learn from each other’s path they have chosen. At this level of listening, we have gone beyond religious systems of belief to relating to the soul of another person. We listen authentically to understand them as a person. This kind of authenticity opens up the heart and mind of the other person and often the spirit of inquiry becomes mutual. Disagreements and arguments about beliefs become irrelevant and even absurd in this very human context.

I believe that disagreements, arguments, and asserting opinions are all a subtle form of violence against the soul of another. If we believe that there is “that of God” in each person, then we must allow that relationship to play out and to mature, in its own time and at its own pace. We then can believe that each person is exactly where they are supposed to be on their journey. They are where they are to learn what it is that they have to learn at that very moment. For us to have the audacity to think we are here to change them is a subtle but pervasive form of violence. Violence is anytime we violate the integrity of another person; dishonoring and disrespecting their soul and their journey.

Let us take these words to heart in silence . . . and walk the path of peace.

“Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 3:18)

“Prayer is not hearing yourself talk, but being silent, staying silent and waiting until you hear God.” (Soren Kierkegaard)

“In the silence of the heart God speaks. If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you. Then you will know that you are nothing. It is only when you realize your nothingness, your emptiness, that God can fill you with Himself. Souls of prayer are souls of great silence.” (Mother Teresa)