PipeChat Digest #3177 - Monday, October 14, 2002
 
RE: silence is golden
  by "Emmons, Paul" <pemmons@wcupa.edu>
RE: silence is golden
  by "Emmons, Paul" <pemmons@wcupa.edu>
 

(back) Subject: RE: silence is golden From: "Emmons, Paul" <pemmons@wcupa.edu> Date: Mon, 14 Oct 2002 17:24:50 -0400   There are some good and interesting ideas here.   But what should be most compelling point, I think, is the same upon which = a very-high-church curate concentrated in his little talk to my choristers during my first year as choirmaster, in support of the "Christian = training" section of the RSCM chorister training scheme. One of the requirements = was to explain why a chorister should behave in church. I had studied and shared with him what the handbooks said about this. All four reasons given were nice to ponder and remember, but they omitted what for him, was the clincher: the fact that in our church the Blessed Sacrament was reserved.   Of course, that reason can apply only where it is, well, applicable. Then there is the voguish modern compromise, of which one knows not what to = make: setting an aumbry into the side wall of the Sanctuary so that it is as inconspicuous as possible. In one nearby church, it is actually hidden behind an archway, satisfying perhaps some letter of the law to placate = one faction, while not giving another faction any obvious grounds for = complaint. Or is it that the designer anticipates goings-on in the church, whether = with clerical encouragement or not, of which Our Lord might not approve, so = that he wants to allow ignorance as an excuse?   I say, either reserve the Sacrament clearly or not at all.                   > -----Original Message----- > From: Randolph Runyon [SMTP:runyonr@muohio.edu] > Sent: Saturday, October 12, 2002 8:54 PM > To: PipeChat > Subject: silence is golden > > I thought some of you might be interested in the following compilation > from Choralist. I know it's an old topic, but some of the replies were > pretty interesting all the same. > > > Randy Runyon > Music Director > Zion Lutheran Church > Hamilton, Ohio > runyonr@muohio.edu > > > > I have compiled the many replies I received to the following question, > which began: > > Do you use a statement at the beginning of your order of service > bulletin that requests the congregation to listen to the prelude instead > of > talking, laughing, etc. etc.?............. > > The majority of solutions received follow variations of this sequence: > 1. a bell or chime brings the congregation out of their conversations. > 2. a minister welcomes the congregation and then there is a time for > announcements. > 3. the minister then announces the beginning of worship, with an > invitation > that it begin with the organ prelude. > > Ruth McKendree Treen > First Congregational Church > Chatham, Massachusetts > rtreen@attbi.com > > COMPILATION: > > * We also tried all kinds of ways to diminish the pre-service > talking and have finally found the answer! The service begins > informally. > The pastor walks to the front of the church, greets the congregation and =   > then we share the peace. The pastor then makes parish announcements. > At the end of that, he says, "Let us all be in silence before the = Lord." > ...and then the prelude begins. It has made an incredible, positive > change! > > * The most effective method I've seen is for the call to worship to > occur > before the prelude. > > * I have seen two tactics that have helped: > 1. Statements in the bulletin. My home church had the following: > "God speaks to us before the service. We speak to God during the > service. We speak to each other after the service." > 2. Announcements first, then the statement "Let us now worship God," > then the prelude. The congregation gets the impression that the > service has begun. > > * "Please refrain from conversation during the Prelude: > others may wish to worship." > Or better: > ".... others may have come to worship." (!!!) > > * Can a note be posted on the doors to the sanctuary saying the = church > is > God's house and a place to be respectful (etc. etc.)? Also, could the > choir > enter the church in some sort of order, (demonstrating that the choir is =   > going to sing). Perhaps some sort of entrance by the choir would quiet > down > the congregation. > We've had a note posted on all of our doors and haven't had a problem > in > years. > Make sure, though, that your choir is leading by example (that they > aren't > talking before church starts, either). > > * I used to have this problem, but we've implemented two things that > help. When it time for service to begin, we ring a bell - a chime, > actually, > that cuts through the din and reminds people it's time to "attend" as it =   > were. We then have announcements and the usual folderol of beginning = our > > time together and then we have the Prelude. I suppose you could call it = a > > musical call to worship, but I still call it the Prelude. Even the kids =   > (when they're in service) know it's time to be quiet and listen deeply. > That has worked and it seems to set a tone for the rest of our time > together. > Our bulletin also has a statement to the effect of requesting = silence, > but it also has little effect. > Let's face it, subtle hints do no good on congregations. If it's = that > important for your congregation (or if your congregation is = exceptionally > loud), it needs to be mentioned to them directly, and specific action > taken. > I recommend having the liturgist or pastor mention (maybe even make a =   > sermon out of it, explaining the different aspects and symbols of > worship) that the worship experience is to begin in humble silence and > meditation, in which the prelude is an ideal accompaniment for that > attitude of prayer, and that *from now on* they are requested to enter =   > in silence. This will probably take a few weeks, and constant reminders =   > will need to be made, and there WILL be people who don't like it (and > will let you know), but I'm sure the vast majority will appreciate the > increased depth of spiritual meaning. It might be a good idea to couple =   > this with a few other changes as well, such as a different tune for the > doxology, order of service, etc. > > * What do you see the function of the Prelude as being? > (I answered: Aha! Now we get into the purpose of music before the > service. > I think of it as preparation for worship, and a time to be thoughtful, = to > meditate, > to pray -- a time of silence to use in whatever way the congregation = finds > > useful, but not as background music for conversation! Our assistant > minister brought up the need for quiet listening.) > > Compilation, continued... > * So many of us "fight" this. What we currently do seems to be > working, > for us, for now: > Our service begins at 5 minutes before the hour. One of our pastors > welcomes people, greet visitors, and usually reads a brief, focusing > sentence of scripture. Then we have the prelude (a different > instrumental group each week, sometimes organ), followed on the hour by > an opening hymn. We also do not process, and the choir/service > participants comes to the loft/chancel as the prelude begins. (The > choir is often in place before the prelude. The pastors come to the > chancel from the nave, signaling a start to the business at hand.) > This has helped quite a bit. Our ushers close all but one door into > the > nave, and continue to seat people from the narthex. At this point, > almost all the "noise" (I hesitate to call it that ... it's people > talking to each other. That too is probably a joyful noise that pleases =   > God!) is from the narthex, and there is a good attention/focus among > those seated and being seated. > > * you wrote : I have changed the sequence at the beginning, so that = the > > choir > and ministers now enter before the prelude begins. (The choir does not > process.) And the acolyte now comes up the aisle right after the prelude =   > begins. This has helped the conversation level, but more needs to be > done! > That's the approach we took, too, and it helped, but as you say, = there > was > still a good bit of lolly-gagging, as we call it........ > So the minister decided on the following which worked perfectly-- > Everyone enters, even the choir (they sit). Before the minister sits = he > > says, "We will now begin our worship and praise." It takes a couple of > seconds for a few to realize they're not at WallyWorld anymore, but when =   > they do then I begin...... > > I allowed the people to talk as they came into the sanctuary and > treated this as a time of gathering (a biblical and historical part of > worship). At the designated hour, we would then welcome all who were > there and verbally call them to a time of preparation for worship so > they could prepare their hearts for an encounter with God. We THEN had > the prelude as the people meditated. Hope this helps. > > * We don't have a printed statement in our bulletin, but my prelude > usually is quite loud, so it can be heard above the congregational din. > I save my best and most thoughtful music for the offertory, which is > played > when the congregation is in a more prayerful (and quiet) mood. > > * The chapel at Walter Reed Army Hospital used to have a lovely sign = on > a > 4-foot post that read, "If you must whisper, whisper a prayer." Try it. =   > > > * Our church has solved the problem--at least so far. A few minutes > before our service starts we have announcements, and we greet each other > for > about five minutes (they can get as loud as they want!). We then have a =   > prayer that is read in unison. Then, the Prelude is performed. The > unison > prayer sets everyone's minds for worship, and there is absolute silence = in > > the congregation. > > * Try playing a very spirited Prelude, gradually building the > registration until you're playing on full organ. Naturally, the > congregation will talk even louder to "keep up" with you. When you > arrive at a suitable -- but unpredictable -- cadence in the music, take > your hands off the keys. Before the congregation's lips smack shut, > somebody will have been caught shouting something embarrassing, like > church gossip or recipe ingredients. They will be much quieter during > Preludes after that. > > * Before the prelude our pastor steps up to the pulpit and says: = "Let > us > quiet are hearts and prepare for worship" or something along those > lines... > It doesn't silence all the talkers, but in general people hush up. > We have another time to greet people around you... "the passing of = the > Peace" > > * At Temple Israel in Miami I have started making the Preludes part = of > the Rabbi's "Schematic," meaning the music presented is planned as part = of > > the liturgy for that service. Latecomers or talkers now are begining to =   > realize that they are missing something integral to the mood and pacing = of > > the service. We have also started skipping an opening hymn, and going > directly from the Prelude into the lighting of the Shabbat candles. So, = I > > now don't make the Prelude distinct from the service, but integral to = the > service. It is working!! > > * A couple of Sundays of stopping abruptly in the middle of your > prelude > when > the noise gets too loud will help embarrass them, if not shut them up. = It > > does work, I've done it! Use a piece that is soft and loud - notice how > the > louder you play the louder they talk - choose a spot in the loud section > to > just stop playing. Do nothing . . . just let the silence continue until > the > service starts. > You'll probably catch them trading Chicken Salad recipes, or = gossiping > about > someone. > > * We ring a beautiful bell which we call THE BELL OF AWARENESS. > Everyone > has learned to be quiet for the prelude which follows. We also addressed > the > issue from the pulpit and it was the general consensus that people = wanted > the silence for the prelude. It even works for our postlude. Everyone = sits > > and listens! > > * We print the following in our bulletin: The service of worship > begins > with the music of the organ. Through it's power and brilliance, may you =   > feel the majesty and glory of God; in it's quietness, God's peace. > I have also found it helpful to give any instructions for the worship =   > service prior to the prelude and then inviting all present to prepare > their > hearts for worship as the prelude begins. > > * Our church has changed the order of service to put the = announcements > before the prelude. The choir and minister walk in, and when the > minister is finished reading the announcements, he says something > like "Now let us prepare our hearts for worship." This has worked > quite well getting the congregation quiet for the prelude, and the > announcements don't interrupt the flow of the service either. > > * Personally, I've got mixed feelings about quiet during the prelude. =   > Before the change I had fun during the prelude, sneaking in, as a > modulation, a line of songs like "Mary had a little lamb" and "Puff, > the Magic Dragon" just to see if anyone noticed. (Nobody ever did). > Also, I never had to worry about playing the music perfectly. Now > that it's quiet during the prelude, I can't do that anymore, although > it is nice to start off the service with a worshipful attitude. > > * One thing that has REALLY worked in my congregation is to have a > short > time of parish announcements given 5-10 minutes before worship is to > begin, lead by the pastor in our case, or it could be a lay leader...it > could go from general announcements to announcing the numbers in church > school for that moment. THis gets people silent and focused. = Immediately > > after I start the prelude, and the acolyte gets to work. It has really > worked well for me. > > * Check AGO magazine, a few months ago, had MANY letters to the = editor > regarding this. > Back in August we started having the handbells ring a peal before = the > prelude begins. I use three or four ringers, and each plays some sort = of > repetitive pattern. I figure out what they will play each Sunday, in = the > key of the organ prelude. It has really worked for us, but it is > important that the congregation can hear and SEE the handbell ringers. > We > pealed from the balcony one Sunday and the conversations didn't skip a > beat! > > * You could have the prelude after announcements and welcome. That = wasy > > all would have been seated. Gathering time, when organists frequently > play > a prelude, is by nature noisy. > * Having been a full-time church musician for seventeen years, > I'm sympathetic to your plight. Just one note -- an associate pastor, > when we were discussing this issue, once asked me the following = question: > "If the prelude is part of the service, what is it the prelude to?" > I couldn't come up with a very good answer. Perhaps a name change might =   > be in order, e.g. Voluntary, etc. > > * This is a dilemma for me too! Our "statement," which has no > discernible > effect, especially at the later(main) service, reads: > "As we enter into God's Sanctuary this morning, > may we prepare ourselves in quiet meditation to Worship God." > (This is exactly as it appears, in bold type but above the heading > "ASSEMBLE > IN GOD'S NAME" designating the first section of the worship service.) > I raise the issue with Pastor & worship committee from time to time, but > the > response is usually that the conversation indicates good fellowship and = is > > not to be stifled. Our layout contributes: the entrance area is low > ceilinged, rather small and dark, while the sanctuary is a pleasant, = light > > and airy space, in simple Colonial style, with some reverberation. > The entrance of the acolyte & clergy doesn't produce quiet either. Only =   > when I ring the chime after the opening voluntary do the people settle > down. > (Bong Bong BONG, 3 times) > At other churches I have served, the people were in the habit of not > talking > once they entered the sanctuary space. In one place I played = "pre-service > > music" for ten minutes, before the official start of worship with the > opening voluntary. Nobody ever talked through any of it. There was a = "be > > still" statement in the bulletin, but more likely there just weren't = that > many people there and/or they weren't awake yet :-) > I don't have a solution, just deal with it by varying the kinds of music = I > > play, and trying to make it worth listening to for those who can hear = it. > > * Right under the "order of worship" title... > "We welcome you to our service this morning and ask that you use the > Prelude as a time of silent preparation for worship." > and it works... > now at the end.... that's another story, but here's what we have: > Upon leaving the sanctuary this morning, please be mindful of those > choosing to use the Postlude as their final act of worship. > > * I think it cuts both ways. A really quiet worshipful church for 10 =   > minutes before the service begins is also less welcoming to new people, > and is also less celebrative (my choir sings a call to worship and > processes with the opening hymn). I think you need to look for a middle =   > ground (a modicum of decorum is a nice thing) rather than an edict of = some > > kind. Just my view of it. > > * At my parents' church (Baptist, fwiw), it is > understood that things get started five minutes or so > before 11. At that time someone comes out and does the > announcements, after which the organist chimes the > hour and then plays the prelude. People still talk a > little bit, but for the most part having someone come > out and talk and get people's attention seems to make > them realize that things have started. There may also > be a statement...let me see if I have a bulletin from > last time I was down there on a Sunday...nope, no > statement, but there is a heading about the gathering > of God's people before the listing of the > announcements ("Life and Work of the Church," > actually) and after that another heading, "Preparation > for Worship" before the chiming of the hour and > prelude (and the chiming of the hour is listed in the > order of worship) > > * About twenty years ago, when talking to pastor and > committee about a position in a Methodist church, I > simply told the committee that I just didn't want to > play over conversation. My proposal was simple and > generally effective: Before the service starts, the > minister comes out, makes any and all the usual > announcements and at the conclusion of the > announcements simply tells the congregation that it is > now time to turn our attention to preparation for > worship while or organist shares the prelude. THEN, > and only then, does the prelude begin. > With few exceptions, this order has eliminated that > all rude noise. I've held a number of poistions in > other churches since then, but have always insisted on > this procedure because it works. > > * A few years ago we solved this problem. Our normal order of worship =   > begins, not with the prelude, but with the ringing of the church bell > when the choir and the ministers enter. This is followed immediately > by any and all announcements. After the announcements, one of the > ministers uses a phrase like "Let us now prepare for worship" and > then the prelude begins followed by an introit, call to worship, > opening hymn, etc. > > * We have the announcements before the prelude, > which has helped tremendously. > > * I have basically given up at my current parish on expecting much > reverence > (much less silence) during the prelude - our congregation, and to some > extent our pastors, see(s) this as community time and so you can pretty > much > forget about people not talking. Those that don't talk don't seem to = have > > much effect on silencing those that do, in other words, the talkers don't > seem to think it at all unusual to be gabbing away and have someone in = the > > next pew sitting there reverently. This factor varies from service to > service - our early service crowd, mostly older folks, are really pretty =   > reverent - as the morning proceeds, the cacophony builds. > A year ago, I visited the Vatican in Rome and got to see the Sistine > Chapel > - talking is not allowed - yet, there is a staff person on hand to > periodically (every 2-3 minutes) say "Silencio!" because the whispering > builds and then turns to talking and must be suppressed - it seems to be = a > > human trait to just never be capable of shutting up! I was very > distracted > by this and ended up leaving - maybe I can visit there again when it's = not > > the high tourist season.... > I have come to believe that reverence is a learned behavior that = takes > perhaps many years to learn, and some worshipers never are given an > opportunity to learn it - therefore, you are going to beat yourself into =   > frustration if you think you can demand silence and actually get it > We also encourage children to attend worship, and once families are = in > there, it's hard to keep it down - and of course, the adults are = generally > > making as much or more noise than the kids > During our evening Lenten services, we dim the lights, use candles, > block > off one of the entrance doors, and post a sign that says "Please keep > silence as you enter the sanctuary" - this has been partially effective, > and > it is helpful if the music is already going when the congregation begins > to > be seated - it seems that whichever starts first, music vs. talking, = will > claim and retain the upper hand. > One other solution that may work has been in practice for many years = in > > the > church of which I am a member: a Taize prayer service that begins 15 > minutes prior to the start of the worship service. It sets a quiet = mood, > and the congregation understands that if they enter the sanctuary, = silence > > is expected - if they want to socialize they can go downstairs to the > fellowship hall - we began this practice in 1992 and it has continued to =   > this day - and I believe that this particular congregation does = understand > > and appreciate reverence and silence. > > * Your idea about seating the choir before the prelude is a good one = - > I > have > used this practice from time to time, but I also have to swear my choir = to > > silence and remind them that if one or two start talking, that's all it > takes to break the meditative mood. > > * Do you also print that the congregation should not laugh during > prayer? > If the prelude really gets to the congregation there is no need to ask > for silence. I had a congregation which was used to raise at the first > note of the postlude to storm out talking and laughing. I never = requested > that they wait for the postlude. However, it started that a few people > stayed to listen; then an increasing number sat down to listen causing > the others to leave in silence and after a few months the whole > congregation > sat down after the benediction to listen to the postlude and to leave > afterwards in silence: There was no organ play anymore to quench the > noise. > > * Silence seems to be more and more difficult for people these days. > The > whole world has attention deficit disorder, as far as I can see. And I > think > the idea behind Muzak has crept into the church---so that the prelude is =   > just like what they play in the store while you're shopping. In fact, > whenever my congregation shuts up for the prelude it gives me the = creeps. > One church I know of starts the service with the acolytes (or anyone, =   > for that matter), coming down the aisle with rainsticks. That sound > signals > to people that something is going to happen. It's a little = earthy-crunchy > granola for my Episcopal folks here in north Jersey, but maybe the folks > up > in your neck of the woods would dig it. > I like your suggestion of having the ushers greet people in a soft > voice. > The other side of this is ~ the formality of church and the feigned > piety is what has turned people off in the past. If people are quiet > because > it's something they think they should be doing, then it's going to make > them > think that church is the kind of place where they can't be themselves. = And > > if the silence is not followed by something profound and meaningful from > the > pulpit and musicians, they won't see any point to it. > I'd say if the feelings are good amongst the people, it's not worth a =   > big fight. > Rest assured there's someone out there listening to your prelude! > I play in a temple, too. There's no tradition of silence before the > service. What a din! > > * Over my many years in this position, we have tried everything you > listed and have found that, without oral reminders almost weekly, none = of > them works. Our choir processes on the opening hymn. For awhile we = tried > > having the minister give Opening Words (from the rear) ending with = "...and > > now our morning Prelude Music." This did necessitate beginning the > service > 5-10 min. earlier, or ending later. The RE program had issues with the > timing. Another thing we have done is position the ushers in the = Narthex > (vestibule), keeping the swinging doors closed after each entrant and = that > > had the best chance of succeeding. However, some felt it was > 'unfriendly.' > I find that the ushers themselves are often noisy and set the pattern of =   > behavior. Isn't it amazing how most churches are caught in what is = almost > a > cultural shift? We even have a Moment of Friendship buried within the > service just after the children leave for class. But that does not seem > to > supplant > the chance encounters as people arrive. > By the way, our building is a stone Gothic structure (Ralph Adams > Cram's > last cathedral!) seating 400 easily, so the architecture supports > formality > and dignity and tradition. Even so ........ > > >  
(back) Subject: RE: silence is golden From: "Emmons, Paul" <pemmons@wcupa.edu> Date: Mon, 14 Oct 2002 17:45:36 -0400   > Other "useful aids" include regular, quiet notes played on "chiff" only, resembling water dripping, and ambulance noises, > and barking dog noises from the synthesizer .   At the Church of the Good Shepherd, Rosemont, a dashing former rector = named Fr. Rutler (who later poped) would preach with great erudition and eloquence, but often L-O-N-G. He did not like criticism about this, either. Once a woman complained that a sermon was too lengthy, and he responded, "I get it: sermonettes for Christianettes."   A parishioner friend relates how one Sunday morning, however, over twenty minutes or half an hour, he built up to the climactic line: "... and the odor of sanctity filled the house of God!" In the ensuing silence, as if = on cue, a certain elderly congregant known for flatulence let out a big one. = I suppose that the good rector brought that sermon to a quick close as gracefully as possible.