Multi-Faith and Belief Chaplaincy, For All Faiths and None

The Gathered Silence

This week's blog has been written by Head of Listening Service, Nicola James.

‘The Kingdom of Heaven did gather us and catch us all, as in a net’

Francis Howgill, 1663


Now that we are in isolation we hear things differently. We actually hear things: from birdsong to the collective and thankful whooping that ascends in the clear air above our streets on Thursday evenings.


In the Quaker meeting we now gather in silence for an hour on Zoom. The screen gallery shows neat rows of tiny ‘window boxes’, their flower heads nodding silently in the spiritual breeze. Afterwards in the chat rooms the flower heads talk animatedly about what they have heard in the stillness.

Spiders web with dew droplets on it, with leaves in the background

Elsewhere during this time people are meeting in virtual libraries, simply to read or write silently alone together. In the chat rooms people say that concentration is longer and better sustained in their virtual reading community than when alone.


Being silent together gathers us all ‘as in a net’; safely distant, but connected. Then we can truly hear what is on each other’s hearts. It’s a fruitful silence.


Sometimes though our isolation is so extreme that we cannot reach out to groups. We are muted. An emotional hypothermia freezes our internal screen. The thought of joining a group, any group, is unconscionable. But you don’t have to speak. You can simply join the breathing stillness.