Time in the modern world seems to be in short supply.
I recall staring out across Anzac Parade a few years ago, one hot afternoon in the weeks just before Christmas. The Rush was upon us, with parking wars aplenty, and shops overflowing as everyone scrambled their last minute arrangements. I was not immune by any means, feeling time slip away to organise services, music, BBQs, presents and somehow trying to feel faithful in the midst. Where was the sense of peace among us in all of this I wondered? And the vaguely troubling thought nagged away at me – how was I, our church, a witness to any way of peace amidst this frantic, snarling season?
Christmas is already starting to haunt our shopping centres, but the question still sits with me. Where do we find peace? Are we really busier than ever – or does it just feel that way?Michael Northcott in his chapter “Being Silent: Time in the Spirit”, makes the argument that,
“Modernity constructs the human experience of time as lack, as necessity; and as unreality. Lack arises from fear of death; necessity from the narration of the cosmos as a machine which is gradually unwinding, or a sun which is gradually dying, where finitude, limitation, being-without-end is problematized; unreality from the speed with which machines and communication devices bombard the individual with disconnected images and signs, stimulating and at the same time frustrating desire.” (Hauerwas and Well, 2004, “The Blackwell Companion to Christian Ethics”)
Have we really allowed our lives to be so focused, so constructed that time itself has become an unredeemed pressure, framing and forming us into iPhone-entranced zombies? And if so, what rhythms of our life together as church can we start to act out of that will transform us again?
Let me be honest. I don’t know.
But I’m excited to be exploring some practices together to find out. To sit in our “sermon of silence” for five minutes every Sunday has become a refreshing moment not to indulge my introvert nature, but to explore silence together as community. Reading Lauren’s recent reflections on our first prayer retreat – and in particular the challenge of Quaker silent worship – was incredibly encouraging. And strangely it was in reading this piece from Susan Carland, on the Islamic practice of the Hajj, which really stopped me in my tracks to ask, “What and who do I spend my time on?”
“The light around which the moth of my soul spirals is both telling and formative. What is at the centre of our being matters.”