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Refreshment in a noisy world

15 March 2013

These stories from a variety of people impress John Armson


The Power of Silence: The riches that lie within
Graham Turner
Bloomsbury £16.99
Church Times Bookshop £15.30 (Use code CT618 )

THIS book explores "the world of those who regard silence as a valuable companion, a source of inspiration . . . a plenitude, a richness which those who shun it are missing". Its author was a journalist: he knows how to write.

His book is a series of conversations - from very different people and backgrounds. He invites them to tell of their own experience of silence. So his book records a wide variety of stories - from a wide variety of social, national, and credal backgrounds.

Most are told first-hand. Some tell of initial fear; others of times when silence has helped them grow closer to prayer - and perhaps God. Most come out of a Christian context, but some come from quite different back­grounds: Transcen­dental Medi­tation, a theatre play, a place in war-torn Lebanon where Sunnis and Shias meet in silence, a murderer in prison, and a woman in the Swiss Alps who claims to have no religion, but who lets the mountains speak. The details vary, but the core is constant: the need for, and the refreshing power of, silence.

One of Turner's most moving reports comes from Beirut, where a man he interviewed had come to see that his prayer was (Turner quotes) "I need, I want, I miss, I would like . . . Most of it was demands, really. Now, for the first time, I heard of the idea of listening to God. That was entirely new for me."

Hints on "how to" pray crop up. But this is not so much a guide to meditation as a stimulus. What repeatedly comes across, and from a wide variety of sources, are reports that the discovery of silence need not be frightening. Rather, those who set out to explore - perhaps with a sense of risk - often tell of wanting more.

He quotes with approval Richard Rohr: "True silence doesn't evaluate. It simply values, allows things to be what they are. . ." So, potentially, this is an important book.

Dr John Armson is a former Precentor of Rochester Cathedral.


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