Each morning I pray in the Ithamar Chapel before going out onto the streets of Rochester. Today I smiled a lot while I was praying as in the background I could hear the school groups playing tunes on bottles filled with water. when I say tunes… well it was more of a joyful noise.
There has been a bit of a conversation going on within the cathedral community with some showing concern that there is nowhere quiet to pray within the cathedral. My immediate reaction to this is that over the last 12 months I have never found that a problem. There is always ‘quiet’, maybe not silence. But, ‘should there be?’ was my almost immediate comeback at myself.
I understand and relate to people wanting quiet, but should a cathedral be a place that provides quite for people whenever they want it? I’ve thought about this and have come to think that as well as being virtually impossible to achieve it surely gives the wrong idea about how we talk and listen to God.
This morning was not quiet. It was, in fact, very noisy and it caused me to smile. It encouraged me to praise and pray to a God of disorder as well as order. The noise and experimentation reminded me as I prayed that God is a creative God, and that God has given us that creative gift in a variety of ways – the ability to create, amongst other things, noise.
After my prayer time I then went up to the nave and saw the children and heard the hub bub around the cathedral. This brought another smile as I thought – surely this is how we want our cathedral to be as well as calm and quiet. The children had looks of awe on their faces as they looked around and explored the spiritual space. The noise and the actions of the children seemed to enhance the spirituality of the space rather than distract from it. It brought a certain life and showed the cathedral to be a vibrant living space. It showed faith is till alive and relevant today.
It is right to have times of quiet in a busy 21st century lifestyle but I have a concern if we give the impression that quiet is always necessary for access to God. If we do give that impression then surely we tell those for whom quiet is a rarity that, essentially, they cannot hear or speak to their creator. The ability to ‘pray continually’ means that God is in the noise as well as in the silence.
God is in the noise as well as the silence, but more often than not we need to be able to understand how to approach God in the noise because noise is all there is.