Saturday, December 17, 2016

Brent Bill: Holy Silence

Holy Silence: The Gift of Quaker Spirituality by J.Brent Bill on Amazon.

"The Quaker view that all of life, including silence, is sacramental is based in the Bible as well as in Friendly faith. It is a practice solidly grounded in Christian theology, history, and Scripture." Holy Silence, page 21.

I've read, blogged, and reviewed several of Brent's books and always appreciate that they're never too long, that he has close connections to nature, the environment, the land (I hope so, because he's a farmer!) and especially that all of them emphasize ways we can live closer to God and to all of God's creation.

holy silence book coverIn theological and in practical everyday terms, I often consider "holy" as the sacred wholly-other-than the profane, the mundane, than the routinely commonplace. Then again, holy is the very here and now regular common earthbound stuff of our daily activities as we move closer to praying always and in all ways a sense of God's presence in, with, and under all the we do and everything we are. J. Brent Bill named his mostly photography website "Holy Ordinary." To my sacramental, liturgical tradition that affirms God's self-revelation, God's self-giving and grace via physical, earthly, everyday "means," Holy Ordinary sounds... highly sacramental. Although Quakers, or Friends don't formally practice ordinances of baptism and the Lord's Supper, they do have a well-known formal practice of sitting in silence. So well-known that besides the guy on Quaker cereal boxes, silent worship probably is the main aspect of the Society of Friends most people have heard about. Then again, some Quakers have programmed worship that includes the usual type of printed Order of Worship bulletin handout, hymns, prayers offered out loud, a sermon or homily.

The author gives us a short synopsis of biblical and Christian practices of silence; not surprisingly, early in the book Brent cites the famous story of Elijah not encountering God until the still small voice, whisper, or (best version) sheer silence. I love the idea of silence being sheer; sheer sounds transparent, see-through to our senses and perceptions.

I'm one of those restless people who has trouble being physically or mentally still for longer than a nano-second. My experiences with structured intentional silence include hours-long speechless periods on church-related or other retreats away from home. I've done some once- or twice-daily Centering Prayer, publicized by Fr. Thomas Keating. Probably because of my combined physical restlessness and lack of real persistence, my attempts of silence usually do well on the not talking level, but I almost always retain a lot of interior noises or impressions.

Brent is very clear that Christians from very different traditions such as mainline Protestants and Roman Catholics that emphasize sacraments, pentecostals who rejoice in the more demonstratively eschatological gifts of the Holy Spirit, easily can make Holy Silence at least a weekly, possibly a daily or monthly practice. He mentioned scheduling the Friends Meeting at his own farmhouse for a time other than Sunday mornings so people committed to Sunday worship with a different tradition also could take advantage of meeting Jesus in common community silence. In sheer silence, so the presence of God permeates all our senses.

Final note: the plain yet elegant silver on white cover of this second edition of Holy Silence conveys a strong sense of what those covers contain.

My amazon review: Friendly Quaker Silence for Everyone

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