"Silence May Be Kept." Words from our Bishop

Bishop Rickel chose the Book of Common Prayer as the book for Lent 2018, and here he reflects on the call for silence as found in the rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer.


He's flagging something very important for our consideration.   I want pass on what he wrote to you.

He writes:

In our Lenten focus, as we take up our closer look at the Book of Common Prayer, I hope to offer several reflections, some of which you might deem "rants", around our use, and misuse (my opinion) of our BCP.

We need silence to be able to touch souls. Mother Teresa

Many of you have heard me say that I believe the most often abused rubric in the Book of Common Prayer is "Silence may be Kept".   I am constantly amazed at how little silence is offered in our parishes where this rubric appears in the Prayer book or in the Prayers of the People.     It is strange how blind we are to this plea, which appears quite often in the book.

Compline, and in the opening confession during Lent, are such places.   In both, right after the Officiant says, "Let us confess our sins to God", we see the rubric, "Silence may be kept." We seem to take far more seriously the "may" then we do the idea that silence might actually be good here.   I often want to blurt out, after an officiant races right over this rubric, designed to give us time to confess, "So, let me confess already!" "Give me time".  

Another good location for the rubric "Silence may be kept" should be, in my humble opinion, after the salutation "The Lord be with you" just before the Collect.   The whole idea of a "collect" is a prayer to COLLECT the prayers of the people.   If this is the case, then we need some silence to offer those.   I like to leave some here.  

In the Ordination services it states at the consecration, "A period of silent prayer follows, the people still standing." This does not seem to me to be permissive, but directive. It says "A period of silent prayer follows".   Here we do not see the word "may".   And yet, so often, this does not happen.

After each reading, in just about any service, including Eucharist, we find the rubric, "Silence may follow."   This is most often not offered.  

Why not?   I always thinks some silence, after each reading, helps it sink in. Let's our minds and hearts go a bit with the imagery we just heard.  Where it is offered I relish it. 

We seem to be in a rush. What is our rush? Maybe the writers of the Prayer Book should have been been more directive. Maybe the rubric should be, "Silence will be kept!"   I am not sure it would help us, but I have to wonder, and I often wish we had the chance to find out.     What is our fear of silence? Maybe we are not sure what might happen to us in it, what we might find there.   But, I am convinced we need it right now, in this world, more than ever.   I know I need it.  

So, as you pay attention to the Book of Common Prayer in this Lenten season, take a closer look at those little italicized words, rubrics, and think about them.   And if you lead worship, contemplate following them.   There is wisdom there. It is clear many do take the time to practice the words,...practice the silence too.   You are our leader for the words, but you are also our leader for the silence. Practice both, lead both.  

In our prayers and worship, It's not just the words, but also the experience that surrounds them.

A plea for Lent.   Silence may be kept.



To which I say, "Amen."  Now, how can we help each other accept silence as appropriate in worship?