Thursday, July 21, 2011


There is a question used among Christian Ministers, 'Is she sound?' The use of the word 'sound' in this context suggests that the person in question is orthodox in faith. Even to use the word orthodox is in itself questionable since the word means 'right worship'. It comes from the old sense that when we pray in a healthy way then our beliefs will be structured in a way that represents the Tradition. 'Sound' as a token of approval or disapproval, failure or success may owe its origin to striking a piece of woodwork and being able to tell from the echo that there was no rot present. In a similar way 'sound' can be a measure of depth. This is the metaphor invoked over this blog. Somehow it offers a paradox, how is silence to be measured and how do we find a way in silence?

'Sound' in this interpretation may have an analogy with 'true' signifying a right measurement or alignment. Why is so much sound unsound? Sounding implies a caution an acceptance of limitation, a feeling ones way in the dark and an understanding that we have to discern if words which come cheaply in our noise riddled world are indeed true.

By being more careful with our language and the amount of words we throw out perhaps sound will become sounder, a more reliable way of discourse. In the meantime rationing our words may increase their value. The more sound and true silence the more sound and true speech.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Falling into Silence

Recently I was privileged to be the invited padre at a couple of services to commemorate Vietnam War battles. These were held next to the old parade square in Adelaide.

I remember as a child in the 1970s hearing news of the war and here before me were people who tell the stories and carry the memories because they were there. As a song by a Vietnam Vet says 'the war goes on' for many of these Vietnam veterans.  Although I was not living in Australia at the time I knew many of them returned to an Australia deeply ambivalent about the war and I feel that many were made the scapegoat - the bearers of a communal shadow.

I was pleased that the compilers of the service had allowed me to include an open and inclusive prayer which prayed for the people of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia today, for people of Vietnamese origin living in Australia and also for those who bear the scars of war. This had to be vetted by the committee and after the service I was deeply moved to receive thanks. The war goes on and we go on remembering.

What grips me at military occasions and also at occasions like the service last night to remember those who died while homeless is that we create at the heart of it all a pool of silence. The service for people who had died while homeless had a silence that permitted me to hear the freezing rain lashing the roof of Pilgrim Church, and the Vietnam service was preceded by the Last Post. Thoughtful and evocative words surround the pool of silence.

No where to go, nothing to be said, no meaning adequate to make sense ultimately of what we gather to remember. Silence here is a uniting factor and I call it a factor that amplifies. Perhaps only silence can call us to an authentic response?