The pealing bells of Big Ben will be quiet for the next four years as essential repairs and renovations are carried out on the bell tower of this much-loved London landmark. The tower, which houses the famous Big Ben stands over three hundred feet tall with each face measuring 23 feet across. There’s already some controversy as to why Big Ben should be silenced for this period of renovation but if it ensures the hearing, safety and wellbeing of those who will be working on the tower and the surrounding Houses of Parliament then it is, of course, the right decision.
According to tradition Thomas Carlisle coined the phrase ‘Silence is Golden’ and that surely affirms its value to us all. We live in an increasingly noisy world which affects us all in one way or another. Sometimes worship at Greenfield is disturbed by blasting heavy metal music from cars with windows wide open waiting at the traffic lights outside the chapel. It’s often happens that during a wedding or even a funeral a ‘phone will ring followed by panicked fumbling in bags or pockets to find the offending mobile. I’ve just watched a TV drama where the dialogue was all but inaudible such was the level of background music. How often do we see signs in pubs and restaurants asking politely that patrons leave the premises quietly so as not to disturb the whole neighbourhood? The ‘Noise Abatement Society’ was formed many years ago to raise the awareness of noise pollution and to educate us in the measured use of sound, and that’s no bad thing.
The Bible encourages us to ‘Be still’ before God and that’s good advice. If that means turning off the TV, the radio, the internet and taking the ‘phone off the hook even for a short time that would benefit not only for our state of mind but our general health as well. Christians often use such times to read the Bible, to pray and to be the means by which God refreshes and brings his assurance of comfort and peace. There are communities of faith, especially in the Monastic traditions where continual prayer and silence are seen as an essential ministry of service to the church and to the world. As a nation, we are led to seek silence as means of grace and peace. The next time Big Ben will sound will be on Remembrance Sunday when it’s peals will begin two minutes of silence as we honour the memories of those who died in two world wars. It’s often the case when national tragedies occur and terrorist attacks such as in Barcelona last week that there’s an appointed time of silence when we come together to stand with the lost, the bereaved and the injured. Such silence is indeed precious and then more golden than ever before.