Silence is Golden: The importance of silence in a worship service

A few weeks ago the RCL had as it’s first reading (After Pentecost 2) 1 Kings 19:1-4,(5-7),8-15a, in which vs 11-15, talk about Elijah waiting for the Lord to pass by, and God was not in the noise from the wind, the earthquake, the fire or the silence. These things preceded God’s voice.

This year when I read this passage I was drawn to the idea that God was not in the silence. When we meditate, it is about listening for God’s voice, unlike prayer when we use words to speak with God, and if I am being honest, usually when I meditate, I listen to me, to my breathing, to how I’m positioned, to why I’m not blocking out the sounds around me. Truthfully it is only after the practice that I hear God, a bible verse, a bird, a leaf something sparks my conversation with God, something that would not have been noticed without the silence.

Silence has been an intrigual but often overlooked part of a Traditional Worship Service or what might be called the sermon sandwich. It is there when we pray, it is there at the start or ending of the service, dare I say that those beautifully crafted homilies are often blocked out by a generation who have found in that space, their unofficial “meditation” time. A generation that would not admit that they need or should meditate. Yet as soon as they think that there might be a change to their worship service structure, the cry goes up, about loosing the silence. In the last fortnight I have had conversations with various groups of baby boomers and older who have stated this concern if they become an Intergerational worshipping community.

It is not just the older generations that have expressed this concern. Parents of young children, have shared that they relished the old Sunday School idea of handing their children over to someone else while they enjoy some much needed silence in church. I have a daughter who has auditory processing issues, who prefered the still of the adult church service than the noise and energy of the Family service. Also in my time as a Child and Family worker, some children on the Spectrum also needed quieter spaces.

So how has Intergenerational communities come to be associated with the idea of noise and movement and the loss of silent spaces. First lets look at what Intergenerational is

This is a screen shot I took on Tuesday from David Csinos’s Australian latest book release for A Gospel for all Ages. It descibes Intergenerational as “there is comprehensive mutuality, equality and recipriocity that makes individual or collective transformation more likely” a quote attributed to Holly Catterton Allen and Chris Barnett

So, if anything is happening that is not equal or mutual then it fails the intergenerational tag.

Yet we have this overwhelming idea that to be Intergenerational we need to change our type of worship, and though change may happen as we try to be mutual and equal, it is not a necessity for an Intergenerational community.

How then did we scramble being Intergenerational and Worship styles?

It appears to me that 2 effects were taking place at the same time, 1) Mission to the unchurched and 2) Educational change. Messy Church is a good example of Mission that became a part of what I will call the church revamp moment (or the movement away from the worship sandwich). They were looking at supplying a space that would be more user friendly to those in their area that would prefer not to be part of the traditional church, but they were not alone in these misson endeavers that were changing the face of worship. (you can read more about the beginning of Messy Church here)

Education has been linked to Church outreach for centuries, it was the driving force to for the Sunday School Movement, and here in my home town in Australia it was the churches that started the education of children in the colony not the government, that came later (you can read more about that here) So it is not suprising that if looking for new models of being church, of fulfilling at least the educational component of passing on faith that we have looked to the changing educational environment. During the generations living in our church congregations we have seen the school systems change from directed to enquiry methods of learning. This has changed the geography of the classroom as well as the influence of education theorists. These new styles of education meant that younger worshippers found a disconnect with their everyday experience and their worshipping experience, so there was a friction between these two styles and the generations that have experienced them.

Because many trying to become Intergenerational in their worship have been looking at ways of being church that might be more accommodating to all generations they have looked to these newer enquiry based educational models to find inspiration. These educational methods are generally more interactive and less passive then a traditional learning system has been, though perhaps we have failed to realise that worship is not just education? To accomodate all aspects of worship into the newer models of worship have we overlooked the need for Silence or Reflection spaces? I also wonder if any other aspects of worship have been overlooked too?

Yet it is entirely possible to include silence or worship moments into a non-traditional service. Rev. Sandy Brodine, known worldwide, for her Messy Church achievements, including the use of Minecraft, is maybe less well known for her worship service known as Space, which has long reflective or silent aspects to it.

Two Australian musicians Rev David MacGregor and Heather Price‘s Meditation Song off her I am Loved album have produced songs that are very suitable for an Intergenerational reflective time.

There are beautiful pictures on, just double check that the permission suits your situation. Many sites offer video’s for a licence fee.

The very simple object of just sitting with a candle burning or battery operated flame, and building up the still time can absorb everyone of all ages, and I have had great success with this in the classroom.

The use of finger labrinth’s, such as these on Creatio can be used by all, at a set time in the service

Be aware of the congregation, and the silences they have been familiar with, even if they have not named them as such, when determining how much silent or refl,ective time might be needed to be built into the worship experience. If experimenting with new types of silent/reflective practices within the worship service it may be easier to be accepted if you build an equal time component back in.

So, I encourage you, to think about the need for silence/reflection and to build some silent or reflective space into your Intergenerational services, becasue as we are told in 1 Kings, Gods voice comes after the noise, business and silence.


Wendy L.

I am writing this on Wurundjeri land and wish to pay respect to all Elders, past, present and emerging.

If these thoughts have inspired you, please attribute this page. Thank you.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.