One good thing about being a minister’s kid is that you have access to a lot of empty churches. My absolute favorite sound is the quiet of an empty church.
Many times, I’d have to run over to the church to bring something to my dad, and rather than go around to the back where his office was, I’d go in through the front or through the basement just to spend a moment listening to the big old emptiness.
It’s not silent. The heater kicks on and rumbles around and spews out some air and then, with a belch, shuts itself off. The buzz of the kitchen appliances is always there in the background like insect noise. The building itself groans and sighs as it stretches out and settles in. But it’s empty in a way that has always seemed very sacred to me. It’s empty in a way one lone person cannot fill.
You can stomp loudly down the aisle or whistle or sing to yourself “Amazing Grace” but the noise bounces around a little and then fades back into emptiness.
After a while, you stop trying to fill it.
Which is why it’s so disconcerting to move to the back of the sanctuary, slip out the door, and to hear the noises of other humans typing bulletins and writing sermons and talking on the phone, and to suddenly feel back down to your regular size.