I got back late last night from a weekend for young people and when our youngest came in to give me a hug this morning the first thing he said was ‘What happened to my real mum?’ I think tiredness was showing even more than usual in my face this morning.
A major focus of this sleep-deprived weekend was for young people to ‘get their voice heard’. This has got me thinking. I believe in the values of participation and inclusion and I’m generally against people feeling left-out or silenced, but I wonder if getting voices heard is a good starting point?
Perhaps more than ever before, we all face a barrage of many voices; both on social media and off it. Most of us feel little need to tow any kind of party line (as on Twitter profiles, ‘all opinions my own’). I think this is mostly good in principle and certainly makes life more interesting.
But how do we learn to navigate all of this? If all of us are speaking, who is doing the listening? If lots of people are speaking at the same time, how can you pick out the voice that you want to hear?
I’m imagining a youth weekend that reflected Victorian values instead. The tagline might be: ‘Be seen and not heard’ or ‘Don’t speak until you are spoken to’. It doesn’t sound like much fun (but I might have got a bit more sleep).
Weird though it may sound, Christians believe that God sometimes speaks to us through other human beings. In ancient history, the prophets called people back to God, to remember who they really were, as beloved children. From the early days of the Christian movement, people have spoken in holy words and pictures and even strange languages to build up one another and to praise God, especially when times were hard.
We all know that listening is as important as speaking but perhaps some of us are drawn more naturally to one more than the other. Certainly our world needs more deep listeners and wise speakers and both of these require us to have roots that go down deep.
I love this song and its image of inviting us all to join in the endless song of creation, even when we are feeling discordant or disjointed, even when it feels like the whole word is clamouring around us. Into this noise comes the quiet message of God’s peace. And we are invited to join the improvised alleluia.
As I walked around the beautiful grounds of Bath Spa University with a friend last week, we noticed this mysterious installation at the base of a tree. Made up of plastic bottle caps, it reflected a real rainbow in the sky and the soft tapping noise it made seemed like a holy sound. All those bits of plastic, which on their own would just fill a recycling bin, made a beautiful clatter in the wind.
I wonder if having a voice is like singing our part in the beautiful endless song; there may be solo parts from time to time but it is mostly about sharing with others in this life of improvised alleluias and enjoying the noise we make.
Does my voice really matter?
Can you hear the song I sing?
Does my worship make sense to you?
Does it match the sound I bring?
When my sound is loud or heavy,
when my sound is cold or bleak,
if my song becomes discordant will my song be what you seek?
In this world so many voices, many sounds rise to compete.
Does my voice really matter? Does God hear me?
Angel voices sang the news of peace to all: your God is pleased.
Jesus said come to me all who labour find your rest in me.
Mothers, daughters, sons and fathers,
lived the sound of love come down.
Song of heaven, God in Jesus –
help me sing with all I am.