Mark Vernon has written a good post about the lack of silence in churches. It struck cord with me because it’s been of one of my gripes about church services, except I’m coming at it from a different angle. I’m addicted to noise. Silence makes me feel naked and self-conscious. I don’t know what to do with myself when I just have the voices in my head to listen to, and my first instinct is to turn something on. For me the ideal way to spend an evening alone is listening to music, watching tv, talking on the phone with a good friend, and painting…all at the same time.
I thrive on the cacophony. I love the way the audial and visual stimuli mix and collide with each other, especially if they reflect different moods. In other words, listening to The Cure while watching Titanic is much more interesting to me than listening to them while watching The Crow. And if I can have an hour long conversation with a friend of mine while all of this is going on, then that’s perfection.
But i know that when it comes to my faith, all that noise isn’t good for me. The uncomfortable silences that I instinctively avoid are what one needs for prayer and focusing on God. So when I go to church, I feel as though church services should be there to help me get over my anxiety over silence. As many pastors and many worship leaders have said, we’re at church to focus on Him, not us. So it becomes extremely frustrating my when the prayer times -during and after communion especially – become time to play the piano or sing hymns. In other words, make sure the service doesn’t allow for silent moments.
What’s interesting is the conflicting answers I’ve received over this issue. There was a short while when I first started attending my evangelical church that they did have silence during prayers and communion. I admit that I wasn’t a stalwart of prayer and focus during those silent times, but I was hoping that practice would help. Then a new pastor came along and suddenly silence was a problem. He was concerned that the congregation was (ironically) getting bored and distracted during silent communions. He was willing to concede that my concerns made a lot of sense, but he went with the noisy communion on the grounds that the noise helped people focus on God.