Embrace the Quiet and Hear the Voice of God
By: Sherri Gragg
An Invitation to Pause
Each Wednesday, just before noon, worshippers quietly take their seats in the sanctuary of Memorial Drive UMC, Houston. They have gathered to pause in the middle of a busy day, in the center of a busy week, to make space to hear the voice of God. “Selah,” Memorial Drive’s contemplative service, is carefully designed to offer them that respite. Associate Pastor Victor Resendiz named the contemplative service “Selah” from the Hebrew musical term that is found 71 times in the Psalms. Many scholars believe “Selah” is a command to cease singing for a moment, to “pause.”
In a world that roars with a 24-hour news cycle and beeps and buzzes with smartphone notifications in the dead of night, Memorial Drive UMC has taken the bold step of inviting their congregants to embrace the quiet.
Resendiz believes Americans are profoundly uncomfortable with silence and stillness, ancient spiritual practices that were foundational to the faith of Desert Fathers, prophets, and even Christ himself who frequently “departed into the mountain to pray” (Mark 6:46). “If someone is just sitting, we ask them, ‘What are you doing? Why are you wasting time?’ The mindset of busyness is how we handle everything including spirituality,” Resendiz said.
A Life-Changing Practice
Resendiz began his own contemplative spiritual practice eight years ago and says it has transformed his life. “Before, my life was busy, busy, busy. Now I am jealous about my solitude. When I come back, I am refreshed and focused again. It is a different way of living life.”
It is a gift he is eager to share with others. Resendiz began the Memorial Drive contemplative ministry three years ago with a book study and two attendees. Today, he estimates that 80-90 people have gone through the class with around 20 staying on as regular participants in various aspects of the ministry including silent retreats, labyrinth walks, and the mid-week service. Recently, Resendiz and Senior Pastor John Robbins have begun discussing ways to expand the ministry including offering a permanent place on the church’s campus where members can come to find quiet time with God.
First Steps to Contemplation
Resendiz encourages those interested in beginning a more contemplative spiritual practice to begin by welcoming solitude into their hectic lives. “Ask yourself what that looks like for you,” he said, “Is it spending time in a garden, sitting in an armchair, or perhaps taking a walk? What nurtures your soul?” Churches can encourage their members by simply offering the space for contemplation and then prayerfully trusting God to expand it from there.
“Our culture has raised us to avoid confronting our demons, and it has gotten us into a lot of trouble.” Resendiz said. “Solitude brings a lot of volume to the things we don’t want to face. That is why it is difficult for us to gravitate to such a space. But, we find a place of deep security once we are able to hear the voice of God.”