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30.04.2021

A Pregnant Pause

Last April I sat in our garden, soaking up the sun, while the world held its breath.  There were no cars, no children’s cries of delight, no diggers, or dustbin lorries. All was still. And then a bird sang. I heard it, as if for the first time, breaking the silence of our stilled world.

Over the past year our social silences have swelled. We are used to the silence of Remembrance Day, two minutes at 11am on the 11th of the 11th. But we have introduced new interruptions in our noise-filled existence: the silence of the stadium before a Six Nations match in tandem with taking the knee against racism; the silence on our doorsteps for the anniversary of Covid-19; the silence on the racecourse to mark the recent death of Prince Philip.

With a whistle, or a trumpet, or a clap, silence breaks. In a single moment, decibels shatter the momentary hush of our rushing world. Like the waters of a waiting woman, silence breaks and something is birthed. But these silences, that increasingly punctuate our lives, do not seem to birth anything.

In Luke’s Gospel, Zechariah is silenced for the length of his wife’s pregnancy, nine months of seeming nothingness. His pregnant pause waits for the birth of their son. And yet this silence is not stillborn. It births a praise psalm, repeated day after day, generation after generation. The Benedictus breaks his silence, proclaiming and prophesying the redemption and rescue of God.

Is it possible for our social silences of seeming nothingness instead to be pregnant pauses awaiting sounds of hope? What words can we, as Christians, offer out of the silence?

In silence we mute the loudest voices, giving space to listen to the perpetually silenced ones. In silence we stop the constant rushing of life. If our voices carry too loudly, and the world spins too fast, mute yourself for a moment, look out of the window between Zoom calls, diarise a quiet hour. If we don’t hold spaces for silence, the noise of the world will inevitably drown it out.

Then, from silence we dare to voice hopeful whispers of the new creation’s birth. Out of our pregnant pauses, we proclaim everyday movements towards eternal reconciliation, creativity, and grace. So we echo Zechariah’s words: ‘Blessed be the Lord the God of Israel, who has come to his people, and set them free.’

 

Imogen Ball
Imogen is an ordinand at Trinity College Bristol, and the winner of Theology Slam 2021

Comments

  1. I enjoy reading the LICC articles and other resources. The only lament that I have against LICC is that it is exclusively for British only and does not extend to other countries. I am from Bhutan and was excited of this approach and coverage.

    By Jit Tshering  -  30 Apr 2021
    • Actually LICC is for other countries…about 2 years ago a group of us representing countries as far away as South Africa and Australia came together to share how LICC is making a difference where we are.

      By Gary Nielsen  -  30 Apr 2021
  2. Dear Imogen, I did not see the Theology Slam final but it immediately strikes me that you are a very worthy winner! I love this piece you have written. It echoes beautifully much of what we have been praying for months in our village and surrounding area – that at such a strange time as this, God has something really important to birth in both our church and nation and we need to listen quietly, if not in silence. The leitmotif of pregnancy really seems to resonate strongly as the months pass slowly. Thank you… and congratulations too!

    By Jeremy Clare  -  30 Apr 2021
  3. Great piece, Imogen. It reminds me that John of the Cross wrote in the 16th century that “Silence is God’s first language”. More recently, Thomas Keating extended this to say “‘Silence is God’s first language; everything else is a poor translation.” Centering prayer, in which we consent to seek God’s presence and action in our lives through a form of silent contemplative prayer, has proved to be a wonderful support for me during the various Covid-19 lockdowns.

    By David Henderson  -  1 May 2021
  4. Thank you. This is really good. Sometimes I think I’m afraid of silence. The modern world tries to force us to rush around and have constant noise and activity when we often need time to reflect, pray and just be silent and listen.

    By Philip Hamilton  -  5 May 2021
  5. Thank you for this, beautifully written and really resonates with much of what I have experienced recently. Only to add, that in the silence of the human world you can begin to hear the worship of the natural world.

    By Leanne  -  6 May 2021
    • Hi Leanne, thanks for engaging. There’s certainly truth to that! Similarly to Imogen, I remember at the start of the first lockdown how the reduced traffic on the road allowed us to hear the birdsong clearer than ever – in a strange way, the human world holding its breath allowed the natural world to breathe again. May you still find spaces to hear the worship of the natural world as restrictions lift.

      Matt Jolley
      By Matt Jolley Culture & Discipleship – Research & Development, LICC

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