J. Brent Bill, Holy Silence; The Gift of Quaker Spirituality (Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2005), 147pp.
"I have often repented of speech," wrote the fourth-century desert father Arsenios, "but never of silence." In this simple and popularly written book, J. Brent Bill introduces readers to the "holy hush" theology and practice of Quaker spirituality. Quakers number only about 200,000 people in the United States, but their influence extends far beyond that tiny remnant. With no creed, no liturgy, no sacred place defined by architecture, no observance of holy days, no sacraments, and no professional clergy, Quaker simplicity revolves around silence, both in personal spirituality and in corporate worship. Silence is what Bill calls the Quaker "sacrament," that place where a believer meets the real presence of Christ. Given the ambient noise in so much of our culture, silence is a gift most believers would do well to cultivate, and Quakers can help show us the way. Throughout his six chapters Bill shares his own personal successes and failures (banging nails on Good Friday, his divorce, visiting a Catholic church, etc.), and intersperses the texts with "Quietude Queries" that serve as guided self-examinations to help readers hear the voice of God. At the end of the book a glossary provides simple definitions for common Quaker terms, while a section called "Words on Silence" gives fifteen annotated suggestions for further reading (but where was Richard Foster?!). Readers will need to consult other books for more technical treatments of Quaker history, theology, and ethics (cf. pacifism), but I will say this—reading Bill's book tempted me to visit the Quaker meeting place not far from my house.