Accustomed as I am to speaking, both publicly and privately, I find it very difficult to be quiet. Even when not conversing aloud I tend to hold discussions in my head. Silence and contemplation do not come naturally to me – ask my wife!
Yet, as it turned out, the highlight of Swanwick 2007 was a prolonged period of silence. On the evening of day 2, a worship group comprising officers from the Southern Division led us in songs and readings centered on Isaiah 49:16 – See, I have you engraved on the palm of my hand. Major George Pilkington then shared with us his experience of extreme stress, and how he learned the need for rest and peace. We were then invited either to explore various prayer rooms around the venue or remain in silence in the main hall.
I chose what was for me the harder option of remaining still. Initially the conversation raged in my head over my life, problems in ministry, plans for the future and the meaning of life. Eventually, however, I managed to reach a state of calm. Whilst I cannot claim any earth-shattering revelation, the stillness enabled me to property reflect on the music we had been singing. I offered various personal and corps situations to God, and came away with the sense of having been heard and of being loved.
Following closing prayer, we took the opportunity to visit the other prayer rooms, prepared by individuals or teams from around the territory. There were too many to describe here, but they gave a clear indication of the variety and depth of peoples love for God and concern for the Army and its mission