Monday, June 11, 2012

No Time for Silence

I just got an email that asked for 20 minutes of time in an upcoming session meeting (sessions are Presbyterian's governing board). The request itself is no problem. It's an issue we need to discuss and consider.  But still I gave a little involuntary flinch when I saw the email because I worry about time pressures in session meetings.  More specifically, I worry about what we don't do when we get pressed for time.

Being the new pastor here, I've only been to two session meetings. But in my experience elsewhere, when the meeting agenda gets full, the natural place to save time is that portion of the meeting set aside for meditation, Scripture, reflection, and prayer.  I like to include a good 20-30 minutes of such time in Session meetings, but there can be immense pressure to "get down to business."

Of course I can't simply blame the elders on the session for this. In my own work as pastor, I'm prone to follow the exact same pattern.  The busier I am, the less time for prayer, for quiet, for meditating on Scripture, and so on.  Martin Luther may have said that he was so busy he needed 3 hours of prayer to get it all done, but I too often do the reverse.

Today's psalm begins, "For God alone my soul waits in silence." But in our culture, silence and stillness aren't productive, and so they are wastes of time. I and members of the sessions on which I've served have been well trained by our culture, and when there's a lot to do, and we want to get people home at a decent hour, we certainly don't want to waste anyone's time.

Every now and then it hits me just how badly I've lost my way on this. A pastor who acts as though it's a waste of time to wait in silence for God? A church session, the body charged to watch over the spiritual health of a congregation, that would jettison time for prayer and discernment so there is plenty of time to debate whether or not to pave the church parking lot? (Not an agenda item here.) It seems that we sometimes get so caught up in running the church that we forget what it means to be the church. We become so focused on functioning and logistics that we have no idea what God is asking us to do.

Surely, above all else, we have to make time for silence.

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