The Washington National Cathedral had a wonderful program last night, built around Frederick Buechner and his latest book (a collection of sermons). PH and I went, and other friends from my church were there as well. Buechner read from the book, "Secrets in the Dark", and there was a panel discussion about Buechner and the art of preaching with Tom Long (one of PH's homiletics profs at Princeton), Barbara Brown Taylor, a noted Episcopal homilist, and Gene Sutton, canon of the Cathedral and no mean preacher and professor of homiletics himself.
I've been reading Buechner for quite a while. Reading him was one of my spiritual disciplines while in the early stages of my discernment process. Oh, but to hear him! A beautiful deep, rich voice. I suddenly hear things in what I had read in his books differently, because I can imagine him and his crisp diction, stately pace, dramatic pauses.
His last word was on the importance of silence. He told us that our gift to him (his 80th birthday is coming up) should be to sit in silence for three minutes.
So we did.
I've sung in that space for a decade, with Cathedral Choral Society. I know how to deal with sound in that difficult space, where the reverberations can last for several seconds.
Oh, but the silence! What a lovely thing, and what a superb gift from a preacher without peer!
The silence was as much a blessing as his final words of benediction.