Did You Hear the One About…? 40 Days with Cartoon Church
Day 27 – Friday after 4th Sunday of Lent
From the Scriptures:
When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.
Silence in the vestry before worship, wouldn’t it be a wonderful idea?
I have seen, with the possible exception of the verger dusting off the verge, all of the incidents in the cartoon above in vestries in churches of parishes were, allegedly, I am priest-in-charge. A title that has to be one of the most effete clerical appellations ever dreamed up by the Church of England. At least, in the instances I have seen it the clergy who were ‘in make-up’ were putting on their own ‘lippy’ instead of having someone do it for them!
I don’t know the origins of the poster, but it would not surprise me if it where the Catholic Truth Society, but these words must be most honoured in their breach.
Before the service, speak to God.
During the service, let God speak to you.
After the service, speak to one another.
Our vestry, like many is a happy, busy place, and it would be nice if choir and acolytes, clergy and servers, were able to gather themselves before ‘the off’ so that we at least started the procession in the correct order, with all our books in place, and on the right foot… and maybe just a smidgeon of silence.
Too often, and I think this is the case in churches were there are no processions and less formal ritual as well, we do not so much discern the presence of the Lord GOD Almighty as wander in and give a nod in the vague direction of whichever part of the church we think God may be watching us from.
It happens all too easily. The Body of Christ is gathering to do wonderful things together. We are preparing to give of our best in word and prayer, worship and sacrament to The One Who Loves us Best. And besides that many of us have not seen our sisters and brothers of the faith since the previous Sunday and there is much about which to share. No wonder we are excited. Sometimes vestries, and worship groups getting ready to sing, can feel more like a gaggle of friends preparing to go out on a date rather than realising what an awesome privilege it is to put ourselves in the presence of our ever-present God.
How do we get around this? A strategy of ‘ssshing’ never works, for a start, in our vestry our clergy giggle far too much. Keeping quiet yourself doesn’t work either, as a well-meaning chorister will probably notice and ask, ‘Is everything ok? This provokes the immediate cleft stick of if I say ‘I’m fine’ we simply add to the noise and if we resolutely keep quiet it becomes a form of ‘silent ssshing’ that also embarrasses the person who asked after your health.
There is nothing particularly righteous about silence in the vestry. After all even the silence in heaven was only for thirty minutes – which is not long when you consider time there is measured by eternity. However there are those of us who need silence before worship but each of us is responsible for our own preparation for worship. It is wrong to impose our personal devotion on others
One of our servers, knowing how busy it gets before the service quietly slips out of the vestry for a few minutes to keep some quiet prayer in the chapel. No fuss is made, no sense of ‘spiritual one-upmanship’ is conveyed, just a personal devotion quietly at work. For me, when the vestry gets to busy I stand outside the church greeting people as they walk in. This may seem busy as well, but there is enough space as I stand silently waiting between arrivals, to see the next person coming and pray for them as they walk along Orwell Road towards ‘the redbrick twilight of St John’s’.
We can’t always find silence before worship but it is worthwhile trying to find some inner quiet.
Perhaps the problem is with the well-intentioned poster on our vestry walls. It makes the mistake of using the word ‘speak’ as if the beginning of worship was always our own words. What if we re-wrote it?
Before the service, listen to God.
During the service, let God listen to you.
After the service, listen to one another.
Occasionally listening will involve speaking in reply but it is as we listen first that we stand the best chance of hearing our Beloved whisper wondrous words of love and comfort.
It is not for nothing that the Rule of St Benedict begins wisely with the word, ‘Listen’…
I am happy you made my neighbour different from me.
I need all my neighbours to teach me about you
for my neighbour knows many things I do not know.
Help me to love my neighbour as I love myself.
(from the Church in Melanesia)
- Notice the habits of fellow members of your church as they prepare for worship. Try to give them enough space to get ready to listen. Questions about rotas and concert tickets can wait until after the service.
- Examine how you prepare for worship. Some times (probably most times) it will be noisy – we are not all called to be Carthusians – but make sure as much noise you make is directed at ‘listening’ rather than ‘speaking’
All Cartoons are copyright © Dave Walker. Please visit http://www.cartoonchurch.com if you would like to laugh even more J
Prayers are from the collection ‘Praying with the World Church’ compiled by USPG.
Please support their work by visiting http://www.uspg.org.uk
Scripture quotations are copyright © New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
These Reflections, ‘Did You Hear the One About…’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2017