The silence of my prayer was replaced with the noise of the narthex. The hymns were sung. The people were blessed. And now, it was time to share in the joy of being together as the congregation participates in the exodus from the sanctuary to the promise of the Parish Hall.
Babies wake up from the sermon, and the silence fades. The squeals of the children just released from Sunday School nearly drown out the mutterings of “good sermon” and “thank you for worship.” Familiar faces sojourn to coffee hour while insisting I must remember their names. My laughter mixes with the hesitant laughter of visitors. Hands are held. Hugs linger too long. Shoulders are touched. The silence disappears.
Only for a moment, the silence disappears. Only for a moment, there is a clamor of giggling children and a racket of slurping adults. The clatter continues until the Parish Hall empties and I am left to lock the doors.
And then it becomes silent and still once again. My distress grows worse, and my heart becomes hot with me as the silence returns. This silence is not like the stillness of prayer. Those are moments that I crave. I need that respite from the insistence of so many demands screaming incessantly. I need that sacred time to be still and know that God is in the silence. This is precious silence. It is not the same silence that greets me with the click of the lock in the church doors.
As the Psalmist writes, my distress grows worse when the lock clicks (Psalm 39:2, NRSV). This is an unfamiliar silence. It is the stillness that moved into my hot heart when I began to unpack my boxes in Corinth. It is the silence of the unknown that mixes with the tears on crumpled newspaper. From the depths of cardboard boxes, I rediscover the items of my kitchen. There is the gravy boat from my wedding registry that once graced our family’s table. And here is the cheese platter that friends gathered around after my marriage ended. Wedged between the newspapers protecting these fragile relics, I find the silence again. It makes me want to scream. “Lord, let me know the end!”
When I moved to this small town far from the city, the silence surprised me. I need silence desperately. I need the respite from the insistence of so many demands – but this is silence is not familiar. This is the silence that creeps in after the church doors are locked. This is the silence that frightens me beyond belief. This is the silence that I want to end.
So, I lock the church doors and ignore the unpacked boxes at home. It’s a beautiful Sunday afternoon. I have no demands for the rest of the day. I only have to make the silence end. I could sit in the sun and read novels. I could sip coffee in the local coffee shop and hunt for friends that don’t know me as the Rev. Alexis Vina. After all, this is what makes the silence so frightening. After worship and the meetings are over, the congregants go home. They go about their lives, and I’m left to the silence of my unpacked boxes. As I pull out of the parking lot, I laugh to myself as I hear the echo of a colleague’s challenge to reject the impulse to be known as the “Infallible Person with All the Answers.” I would rather break my gravy boat into a million pieces. I might even break the gravy boat on someone else’s table if I dared to fill my silence with the noise of my congregants’ tables.
In the stillness and the silence of this sunny Sunday afternoon, I have to figure out how to build rather than break into a million pieces. I have to ignore the gravy boat all together. I have to know that the silence will end. I have to know that I will find a home here too. I have to remember that even in the uncomfortable silences of new conversations, friendships are being gathered. My turmoil is not for nothing, but something will heap up (Psalm 39:6, NRSV). Soon my heart will be hot with sounds outside of the silence. Soon, it will not be silent and still.
Do you have a story to share? This series of short stories chronicles the life of one young clergy woman, the Rev. Alexis Daphne Vina. Her story is made up of the thousands of stories that we have — as young clergy women. If you would like to share your story in the voice of Lexi, go to Contact & Submissions to find out how to submit your creative work for publication. The Gospel According to Rev. Lexi D. Vina publishes on the first Tuesday of each month.