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100 years ago: When the silence is missing

14 April 2023

April 13th, 1923

WE HAVE received, as is usual after Easter, several letters from correspondents who complain that in the Devotion of the Three Hours this year scarcely any time was allowed to the congregations for their own prayer. One correspondent, for example, tells us that the conductor began by saying that probably the most valuable time would be the few moments of silent meditation between the addresses. They were few indeed, two minutes at each pause, and those minutes partly occupied by a collect said by the conductor. Another correspondent tells us that during the whole period of the Devotion in the church she attended there was not one full minute of silence. The recurrence of these criticisms year after year seems to show that conductors of the Devotion are slow to learn, even in a time when the recognition of the value of silence is certainly growing among the instructed laity. Something, it must be said, depends upon the type of congregation. What may befit a mission church in a new district would be unfitting in a church where the congregation is well instructed, and perhaps the passage of the preacher from one to the other type accounts for some of the difficulty. But those who recall the account given in one of Canon Bodington’s books of the long watches kept in Holy Week at St James’s, Wednesbury, in the days of the Rev. Richard Twigg, cannot doubt that even in a very poor and unintellectual parish much more may be left to the devotion of the people than is generally supposed by conductors of the Three Hours’ Devotion.

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