(Not) Widely Known

“So his brothers said to Jesus, ‘Leave here and go to Judea so that your disciples also may see the works you are doing; for no one who wants to be widely known acts in secret. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.'” – John 7:3-4 

At the silent vigil, we are to walk three times in silence around a building. Inside people who we believe are not criminals are being detained as if they are. We are instructed to let each footfall be a prayer of compassion for those inside, for their children who are far away. We are invited to maintain total silence for an hour. 

Left, right, left, right.

A single gong sounds a single note. A woman smiles silently as she passes out crackers and water in little paper cups. Without a sound, a few people wave marker-on-cardboard signs at a passing car or two. A couple mimes, negotiating a selfie with an adorable baby in a plaid hat. I notice these things, and then turn my attention again to my steps.

Left, right, left, right.

Our culture tells us that the only way change gets made is by crying out, playing trumpets at top volume to bring the walls crashing down, making ourselves widely known.

But, as we see in this little exchange from the gospel, Jesus knows a different way. He knows that sometimes change gets made so quietly and so subtly, it almost seems like a secret. 

For an hour or so, more or less in silence, a motley community of gong-players and water-servers and sign-wavers and baby-admirers and prayer walkers knows it too. 


Jesus, in silent times and noisy ones, let each step be a prayer. Amen. 

dd-brownell.pngAbout the Author
Jennifer Brownell is the Pastor of First Congregational Church of Vancouver, Washington, and the author of Swim, Ride, Run, Breathe: How I Lost a Triathlon and Caught My Breath, her inspiring memoir.