Tuesday, 9 August 2011


The world has gone a little bit crazy, hasn’t it? While the riots were kicking off in London last night I was in a church in the city centre of Oxford. The church sits in the middle of two major roads into central Oxford and it was rush hour. Horns were tooting, heels clattering on the pavement as people rushed to catch trains and buses while I sat in that dimly lit, ancient church building with an elderly church warden reading prayers together written over 500 years ago.

It might seem strange to some people, pointless even, but being there surrounded by silence, even for just a few moments, righted something in me. Anyone who knows me can confirm that I’m not usually one for silence. I’m what you might call a chatter box and am prone to having an opinion on everything. We value our opinions very highly these days, don’t we? As if nothing more worthy has ever been said before. We hammer our opinions home in tweets, updates and dare I say it – blogs! We don’t seem to believe we can be wrong about anything.

That’s why I find saying thousand year old words comforting. The church, and the many people in them down the ages, have said the same words and it feels like keeping vigil with them in the hope of better things to come. Those words unite two strangers on a Monday evening in a church that was still there when donkeys were going past instead of buses.

The other thing that silence does very successfully is to steady the inner compass. When the haze comes down, and you have no idea which way to go, you have to wait for the needle on your compass to stop to tell you which way is north. Most of the time my compass is spinning like north doesn’t exist as I run from place to place, reacting constantly to all the noise and busy-ness around me. Silence keeps me calm long enough to at least have a chance at finding the right way.

It would be dismissive to say it solves everything but I think that finding those places, those words, that have stood through a thousand years of war, famine and heartache can give us comfort in turbulent times. And I’ve found that silence in my own heart and mind can give new direction when going forwards seems like a very hard thing to do.


  1. sooo agree on the silence thing. I've been trying (but often failing) to spend time in contemplative prayer each day for a few months now. Makes such a difference. And I like you am not one for quiet usually, but I am learning!

  2. Indeed. Us chatter boxes need silence all the more!