Written by Gradye Parsons
Each month the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Moderator or Vice Moderator of the 220th General Assembly write a column of general interest for the church-at-large.
October 15, 2012, marked the 60th anniversary of Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, one of the classics of children’s literature. National Public Radio reported on the struggle E. B. White had recording the audio version of the book. When it came to describing Charlotte’s death, it took the author seventeen takes before he could get through it without showing emotion in his voice.
There are times in our lives where words don’t work. We see a brilliant sunrise or sunset, take the photo with our cell phone, and let the picture speak for itself. You reach out for your grandchild’s tiny little fist and just gaze in wonder. You sing a hymn in church and suddenly realize you can’t sing at all. The memories and emotions tied to the song are too strong. You stand by the bedside of an old friend in the last moments of life, silent in that holy space.
On another occasion, E.B. White said, “As a writing man, or secretary, I have always felt charged with the safekeeping of all unexpected items of worldly and unworldly enchantment, as though I might be held personally responsible if even a small one were to be lost.”
In the church we wrestle with silence. The wristwatches tick loudly during the moments of silent confession. A preacher who pauses too long in the sermon can “lose the crowd,” so to speak. But sometimes having some space for non-noise can make room for some of White’s “items of enchantment.” The enchantment of sitting in the pew holding hands with someone you have loved for forty years. The light of a stained glass window illuminating the face of a sister you deeply admire. The scratch scratch sounds of a child drawing on a sheet of paper. The wind as it twirls around the steeple.
None of these items of enchantment need words. They need only the open space in the hearts God gave us. The open space where communication between our Creator and ourselves is a precious wonder to enjoy forever.