LETTER FROM THE MANSE.
email@example.com February 2014
There are a couple of songs which came into my mind in recent months which I used to enjoy listening to when I was a teenager, and which I have on a couple of CDs which could be classified as “Golden Oldies”. One is “The Sound of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel and the other is “Silence is Golden”, a cover version of which was sung by The Tremeloes.
Why these came into mind comes from my experience of events where silence should be foremost. It was disappointing standing at the Town War Memorial on Remembrance Sunday last year to be able to hear people chatting during the Two Minute Silence. Disappointment turned to disbelief when someone felt the need to go the Cash Machine to get some money during the Two Minute Silence and the “bleeping” as the machine was activated interrupted the silence. Why was that necessary at such a time?
The same kind of thing happened the following day on 11th November at 11.00am. I happened to be in a supermarket at about 10.45am. There were announcements every few minutes leading up to 11.00am informing shoppers that we would be sharing with people all over the country in Two Minutes Silence, and inviting us to join in. Most folk did, although it was noticeable the number of people (of all ages) who felt the need to push past those of us standing in silence with a loud, rather impatient “Excuse me” and one couple saying to an elderly relative “Granny, the bread’s over there”.
A number of people who were at our service on Remembrance Day remarked how quiet and still the children in the FOG Squad were during the silence. All of them were aware of what we were doing and why we were doing it – they do the same on 11th November in schools – and they learn about the history behind the Act of Remembrance.
A similar situation arose on the evening the Christmas Lights were switched on in Carnoustie. The behaviour of some of the crowd and what was shouted during the prayer, raised many questions about the nature of the event – but why such antagonism? Why could there not be some quietness for 3 – yes, 3 minutes?
Maybe we just have to accept that there will always be people who are unaware of what might be going on around them, and what is an appropriate time to chat to their friends and withdraw money. If so, that is a great pity.
The most moving experiences of the two trips I have made to the Holy Land were crossing the Sea of Galilee in a boat. In the middle of the Sea, we stopped and the engines were switched off. You could literally hear the sound of silence. Worship consisted of silence, and concluded with singing “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind”. The words of the hymn took on a new sense of meaning – O calm of hills above; the silence of eternity; that deep hush subduing all our words; drop thy still dews of quietness; still small voice of calm.
Whenever I sing that hymn, I am immediately transported back to these times on the Sea of Galilee. All of us, wherever we are, can listen for the sound of silence, because in it, we can hear the still small voice of calm.