In silence

London’s a strange place isn’t it. I got on the Tube this morning to go to Westminster for this second and final day of this Group of Sessions. The Circle Line train was packed as you would expect at 8.30. The doors closed and we moved off – and there was complete silence, complete silence. It was a better silence than we achieve in so many of our churches – it wasn’t unfriendly, not unsettling, not disturbing. People were just completely silent. Of course in people’s heads other things were happening – but not every one had headphones on. A lot were reading. But it felt like a place of utter tranquility.

I’ve talked to a number of people about what happened first thing yesterday afternoon as the Canon was enacted. It was received in ‘dignified silence’. The most momentous event in many of our Synod careers was received with the same silence as if we had just amended the Fees order, or decided some other piece of minor legislation – more silence in fact, as then there might at least be a rumble of pleasure. But nothing.

Given that everything we now do is in the media spotlight what does this say to the nation? That we aren’t really bothered? That it wasn’t as important as we had been making out? But we are and it is.

I understand of course that for others it was a painful moment. But then we should have been able to rejoice and weep together, that would be truly an honouring of one another’s feelings. But the moment passed and we moved into prayer and greater silence.

But this morning my heart is rejoicing and I want to sing, I want to say how good it is to be part of a church that has had the vision to do this. It is a great day and God is good.

I suppose that was what made the tremendous service in St Paul’s to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the ordination of women so amazing. The spontaneous applause as the class of ’94 entered that wonderful building was not just applause for them but all that bottled-up, restrained joy that had been held back by dignified silence.

With the prophet Isaiah I say

Shout aloud and sing for joy, O royal Zion,
for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.

(Isaiah 12.6)

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