SILENCE is to the spirit what sleep is to the body: nourishment and refreshment.

What a noisy world we live in! Over the years, research has clearly shown that sounds like traffic noise, industrial machinery, aeroplanes, loud music and so on, can have a negative effect, both on our physical and mental health. Noise pollution seems to be everywhere.

The stress of being exposed to excessive, repetitive or overwhelming noise can harm body and mind, can affect our sleep, and even make us more likely to become depressed or anxious. For many, it means that their concentration and coping ability suffer as a result of noise pollution.

In our hearts we know, of course, that silence is supposed to be golden, even though certain gentle sounds – like being in nature – can have a powerful effect and make us relax. Indeed, there are many people who find silence uncomfortable. Yet it is something to be looked for.

Thomas Merton, the well-known Trappist monk who died in the 1960s, said that places of silence were places where “love can blossom”, something Quakers have been aware of for centuries, indeed since they started out. In 1699 William Penn, Quaker, religious thinker and founder of Pennsylvania, recommended: “Love silence, even in the mind… True silence is the rest of the mind; and is to the spirit, what sleep is to the body: nourishment and refreshment.”

So, every Sunday afternoon at 3 pm when a group of us sits in the historic Quaker Meeting House in Airton, we try and enter that silence.

Anyone can join, nobody is excluded, and Airton is not a bad place for it. Yes, sometimes a tractor or motor bike goes past, sometimes a lawn mower crackles on. Yet, on the whole, it is a place where body and mind can be refreshed. And that is something to be valued in our noisy world.

Wilf Fenten

Clerk to Airton Quaker Meeting