Quiet! please….

I went to church yesterday and spent a whole chunk of the service silently weeping, whilst all around me people were singing songs of praise to God.

Yes, I know, God is worthy of praise at all times. Absolutely. Now that we’ve got this out of the way, do you think you could stop preaching at me and listen? and try and understand what it was like for me, and why? Thank you.

So why was I sitting there and weeping silently instead of standing with everyone and singing?

I guess on one level I could answer this with: because Jesus said to come to him if we’re weary and that he would give us rest, and I don’t think he requires me to come to him in a pretence at some kind of joy and jubilation that I’m totally not feeling right now, I think he’s perfectly okay with me coming to him as I am, with my weariness.

But why was I so weary? Because from the moment I walked into the building, people had talked at me. Yes, for introverts sometimes the problem is with people being too friendly, too chatty. Someone sees you and says “how are you” and you try to give them some kind of truthful answer and you say “tired” or “frazzled” and they immediately ask why and the answer is kind of complicated and there’s only five minutes till the service starts… or they talk at you, just chucking in your direction whatever they happen to have on their minds at that particular moment, and you’re desperately looking for an escape route, a not-too-rude way of ending the conversation – because for introverts it’s actually really hard work to take in a whole load of verbal input, and if I’m going into church I know there’s going to be a whole load of verbal input in the service, so I need to clear my mind beforehand, not to get my mind filled with a whole load of other stuff, most of which is of no interest to me anyway, because these super-chatty people aren’t the types to be sensitive to your eyes glazing over or to the fact that you haven’t indicated an interest by asking any questions…

One thing I sorely miss from my days in the Anglican church is the custom of having a few minutes’ silence at the beginning of the service – so at least you have time to recover from that chatty stage, and to get your mind focused on God. Being exposed to ceaseless chatter and then moving straight into singing – how can I sing to God from the heart when my mind is buzzing?

It’s not always as bad as it was last night. Usually it isn’t quite that bad. Partly this depends, of course, on what state of mind I’m in when I arrive – how frazzled/tired/stressed I might be as I walk in the door. Partly it depends on the people I bump into – thankfully, not everyone is of the over-chatty ilk. Last night I was very frazzled when I walked in, then the person welcoming people at the door was of the super-chatty types that splurge a whole load of stuff at you for no apparent reason, then I made the mistake of sitting next to someone who, after being [genuinely] sorry to hear you’re tired/frazzled immediately proceeds to tell you in detail about their day… So by the time the singing started, I was at the end of my resources. Sometimes if I’m just feeling tired or down I force myself to stand up and sing, because I know it can actually help me come out of the down, praising God and singing truth about him can actually reinvigorate me. But last night I was at a much lower point than that. So I sat there with my eyes shut and wept to God. And I could have absolutely hugged our pastor when at the end of that stage, instead of – as we usually do – moving straight on to the next thing, he said: let’s spend a few moments being quiet before God.

I just wish we did more of that, more regularly. I wish my needs as an introvert were recognised more – because it’s not just me, there are lots of us around. And when the service is geared so much to what works for extroverts, the indirect message I could get is that I’m not accepted as I am – but I know that’s not the intention, so I don’t take it personally. There was another church where I felt that I really wasn’t accepted as I am, but in my current congregation my general feeling is that it’s totally okay to be me. The stuff about not having silence in the service is, I think, simply because of a lack of awareness of the needs of introverts, not because of non-acceptance. And that’s one reason why I feel it’s worth bothering to blog about these issues – to raise awareness.*

And of course I’m sure this works both ways – there are churches where there’s a lot of silence and stuff which would be stressful for extroverts. Somehow we need to find ways of being part of the body together, not overdoing one side or the other. Because we’re called to love one another – not just the ones who are like us, but everyone.


*If you are with me on this and want to help me raise awareness then please use the “share” feature below, link to this post on blogs/social networking sites where you’re a member, tweet it if you’re on Twitter – help spread the word.

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6 thoughts on “Quiet! please….

  1. oh meirav, you would have been intrigued by our service yesterday. i think it all came about because our musicians had all been away the day before and couldn’t get together to practice, but we ended up having a service without music. since that was the plan, the pastor decided to roll with it and make it a bit more interesting by doing a service in the fashion that zwingli (one of the early reformers, for those that don’t know) used to do. apparently zwingli was a musician, but he also believed that you should only do things that the bible specifically stated you should do. and he couldn’t find anything that said music was required in worship. so he led music-less services.

    well, that’s not really the point. the point was that, since we were doing the service in his style, we did things we usually don’t do. one was that there was a full minute of complete silence (not even the piano played) after the sermon in which we were encouraged to think on what we had just heard. then we were given time to share our thoughts either on the sermon or on the topic of the sermon. only two people spoke up (me being one of them) so i don’t think it was something people were used to yet. but it was still neat to hear how people responded to the sermon. and i think doing something like that would help to … i don’t know, maybe bring the sermon down to earth a bit. or personalize (with the personality of our congregation) it a bit. or something like that. the whole thing was different, but good.

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    • oh, I’d love a chance to discuss the sermon afterwards – though in our church I think that just wouldn’t be practical, not with 200 people, but in a smaller congregation I think that would be great.

      and on another side note, I do find it funny the idea that Zwingli didn’t do music in worship because the Bible didn’t specifically say we should have music in worship – do you think he’d have allowed seating? light? notice sheets? people to welcome you at the door?

      (and on another tangent, I’m amazed to find that your replies have been sitting here for nearly a month and I haven’t responded until now that Tina got me to look at this post again. slapping own wrist – bad blogger, must do better.)

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  2. “how can I sing to God from the heart when my mind is buzzing?”

    this is how i feel during many, many worship services ever since having kids. i agree, the talking to people definitely does it also. but when you have kids you can sometimes avoid the talking to people by looking busy herding your kids. but then you get to the pew and you’re there with your kids, who feel compelled to whisper in your ear in the middle of a prayer, “can we have mac and cheese for lunch later?” or “can we go see the movie Rio at the movie theater some time?” or “nathan is bugging me.” oi vey! can’t you see we’re praying?!!! or in the middle of a song someone pulls on my sleeve asking the same kind of thing. it’s enough to drive me batty. i remind myself that some day i’ll be in worship and actually be able to focus, but that’s kinda sad because then they’ll be grown up and gone. alright. that’s a total tangent. the point is, i getcha. i soooo getcha on this. both with the people in general and kids in specific. shut up everyone! grrrrr.

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    • ah, now I remember why I didn’t respond at the time, because my head was going round and round with thoughts about parenting and taking kids to church and on the one hand thinking, but can’t you tell your kids not to talk in the middle of prayer, and on the other hand thinking, hey meirav you’ve never done parenting so you don’t really know what it’s like, and… well, what do I know about parenting? just that it seems like a very difficult task and full of complexities and I do totally appreciate how hard it is to be in church and not be able to focus because of these kind of interruptions – I can relate to this because, even though I haven’t done parenting, I did for a short while work as a house assistant at a L’Arche community and part of my job was to accompany one of the residents to church on a Sunday, which meant I couldn’t totally get into the service because I was on duty and having to watch over this person who, though adult in size and shape, was like a child and very unpredictable. oh, and also incapable of wiping her own nose. so yes, I know. thank you for reminding me that not everyone has the luxury of being able to just shut their eyes and concentrate on God without interruption. (reminds me of something I read about the Wesleys’ mother, who had lots of children – 14 I think – and when she needed to pray she’d pull her apron over her head as a sign that she was not to be disturbed.)

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