Connecting with Culture
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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 is an ordinand at Trinity College Bristol, and the winner of Theology Slam 2021