Recently, I heard a story about a young prince named Hullabaloo. He lived in a land where everyone and everything was noisy. When people talked, they shouted at each other. When they ate their soup, they inhaled it with a loud air-over-tongue sound. When they worked, they clanked and bumped until the air was filled with noise.
For this young man’s birthday, Hullabaloo’s father decided that the best gift would be for everyone to make their biggest noise all at the same time so that it would indeed be the biggest, loudest noise ever made. And so the king sent out an edict declaring that his son’s birthday would be the noisiest birthday ever.
There was a woman working in her garden who decided that she would remain silent at the appointed time so that she could hear the biggest sound ever. She mentioned it to her husband and her friend. They liked the idea and so they told their friends and their partners. The idea spread like wildfire.
The day of Hullabaloo’s birthday arrived. And the hour advertised as the biggest-sound-birthday-gift arrived. With anticipation high, everyone waited . . . .
But all they heard was silence. And then they heard the sound of a bird singing in a nearby tree.
Hullabaloo was delighted. This was the best gift he had ever received: silence. Then the sound of a bird’s melody.
“Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
The body of Christ is in the midst of transition. And we wonder, do the old categories still work? Are the current structures helping us as we grow in relationship with God? Are God’s purposes as identifiable now as they were before? Why are there roadblocks in our way if we are doing it right? Why is there a financial shortfall when we work so hard to build the kingdom of God on earth?
Perhaps there are more appropriate questions. Perhaps what we need to be doing is spending time with Hullabaloo and his country folk as they slow it all down and listen. The questions might be: What is God doing? What are the transformations that will help us best to love God and our neighbours as ourselves? What is God desiring to do within us and with our lives?
Members of Mennonite Church Saskatchewan are well into a three-year focussed journey with Christ, each other and the world. As we accompany Christ, we are discovering that the Hullabaloo approach to church growth can usefully be realigned by the people’s approach of listening. A spirituality resource team is visiting churches and planning a Lenten retreat to introduce and encourage contemplative prayer and lifestyle practices. We anticipate God’s guidance and affirmations as we seek to be more faithful.
“In silence, God ceases to be an object and becomes an experience” (Thomas Merton, Trappist monk).
Claire Ewert Fisher is chair of MC Saskatchewan’s Ministries Commission.