Sacred Listening

Lara Schopp Articles, Staff Messages

By Lara Schopp, Director of Communications

Each Sunday during worship, I have a moment when I think “I’m probably not supposed to be doing this.” That moment comes during The Lord’s Prayer, when—while everyone else in the room is doing what they’re supposed to be doing, which is reciting those sacred and familiar words aloud—I find myself not doing it. Not because I’m trying to be irreverent, or because I don’t care or don’t think it’s important.

I think it all started when my daughter was young and we’d reach that part of worship and I’d listen to see if she knew all the words. Then I realized that hearing her little-girl voice saying those words added meaning to them for me. Later, I was struck by the sound in the room during the Prayer. All those voices woven into a harmonic tapestry not unlike the finest anthem. The room buzzes with spiritual energy as everyone (well, almost everyone) lifts his or her voice. For a moment the air in the room changes as the sound waves—high and low, young and old, feminine and masculine—reverberate about the sanctuary.

I’ve never asked anyone if it’s particularly wrong to not add my voice, to take this moment of the service as my own private form of worship. Maybe I shouldn’t be admitting it here. Maybe our ministers, whose theological insight I respect greatly, would tell me I’m violating some sacred rule in my secret listening.

But I hope not. Because listening can be sacred too. Especially in a world where there is so much noise, so many opinions, so many people shouting…online, on television, sometimes even at home and work. The 24-hour news cycle, never ending Twitter feed, and political discord contribute to what feels like an increasingly divisive culture, one in which we’re desperate to be heard, to shout our support for this issue or that, to condemn this politician’s positions or that person’s ignorance. But it’s also a culture where maybe we aren’t doing enough listening.

Communication fails when messages aren’t received. If no one’s listening, no one is hearing, understanding, learning, empathizing.

So I take my moment on Sunday mornings as a reminder to listen to those sacred words, not just speak them.