Silence is long-established as a spiritual discipline amongst people of faith. However, its examination tends to focus on depictions within texts emerging from religious life and the development of its practices. Latterly, feminist theologians have also highlighted the silencing of women within Christian history. Consequently, silence is often portrayed as a solitary discipline based in norms of male monastic experience or a tool of women’s subjugation. In contrast, this book investigates chosen practices of silence in the lives of Christian women today, evidencing its potential for enabling profound relationality and empowerment within their spiritual journeys.
Opening with an exploration of Christianity’s reclamation of practices of silence in the twentieth century, this contemporary ethnographic study engages with wider academic conversations about silence. Its substantive theological and empirical exploration of women’s practices of silence demonstrates that, for some, silence-based prayer is a valued space for encounter and transformation in relationships with God, with themselves and with others. Utilising a methodology that proposes focusing on silence throughout the qualitative research process, this study also illustrates a new model for depicting relational change. Finally, the book urges practical and feminist theologians to re-examine silence’s potential for facilitating the development of more authentic and responsible relationality within people’s lives.
This is a unique study that provides new perspectives on practices of silence within Christianity, particularly amongst women. It will, therefore, be of significant interest to academics, practitioners and students in theology and religious studies with a focus on contemporary religion, spirituality, feminism, gender and research methods.
Table of Contents
1 Beginnings in Silence 2 Silent Threads: Explorations of Silence from Interdisciplinary Perspectives 3 Learning to Hear: Developing Methods for Listening to Women’s Experiences of Silence 4 Mapping Silence 5 Silence and Relationality with God 6 Silence and Relationality with Self 7 Silence and Relationality with Others 8 Silence in Transformation
Alison Woolley completed her PhD at The Queen’s Foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education through The University of Birmingham, UK. She combines her role as Director of Seeds of Silence, offering training, workshops and advice in both developing and supporting people’s spiritual discipline of silence with her work as a spiritual accompanist and music therapist.