by Rev. Kate Mauch, Crossroads Hospice and Trinity PC
There are different flavors of silence. The silence of a sanctuary on a Tuesday afternoon is very different from the silence of the exam room, waiting for results. The silence of a friendly conversation that has lulled is different from the silence of willing a phone to ring. There are silences that are easy to slip into and even easier to stay in, and fondly remembered once they have left. There are silences that accumulate like grime on wallpaper, until no one really remembers what color the walls were before. The former silence creates bonds, and the latter creates divisions.
Lately, it sure seems like our culture has gotten noisy. The airwaves are full of arguing people, people talking past one another, people interrupting, people creating a kind of silence you can only hear when you stop to notice whose voice is absent. There is plenty to hear, and little listening. Our culture is full of the kind of silence that creates division, and our country and our communities reflect this.
It would be wonderful if we could say that the church is free from such division, that we listen as well as we speak. Some might say that we do. Some might even say that the absent voices aren’t worth listening to. To those individuals I would invite them to listen more deeply, to listen for the voices that are quiet or soft, or completely still. Listen for the empty places, the uncomfortable silences that yearns to be filled. Listen in silence and in love, so that the voices heard might be able to speak fully and freely before discussion. Listen to learn, not to challenge. Listen.
When I picture the Beloved Community in my mind, I envision a place with much silence. Not the dead kind, though, but the kind of silence that is full of life and growth and listening. I envision a community where we listen for the Holy Spirit and for each other, recognizing that each and every one of us is a beloved child of God and a necessary and important member of the Body of Christ, even if we don’t all agree. I envision a community where we can be different, but our differences do not divide us or distract us from our identity and mission in Christ. I envision a community where each and every one of us may speak freely, and be truly heard and valued, even in our differences. I want to see a Beloved Community in which we don’t talk past one another. I want to hear all the voices of my siblings in Christ, even when their voices convict, challenge, or teach me. I don’t want any of God’s beloved children to be silenced, unless it is so that they, too, may listen for the voices of others.
As I seek to bring about the Beloved Community this year, I will listen. I will listen for the voices not heard and for the silences that harm. I will listen to learn, to love, and to grow. I will listen in the hopes that someday the only silence will be the comfortable one of good friends, seeking God together.