It was one of the those surreal moments where you aren’t sure that what you are seeing is actually happening: 48 junior high students were seated in total silence, faithfully copying and illuminating their favorite Bible passages, candles the only light in the room, with hymns playing in the background.
For 90 minutes. On a Friday night.
The moment I’m describing occurred during our annual Monastic Conventiculum, or “MonCon,” as it has become known. During this beautiful evening, our 8th graders, who study medieval humanities, meet at school to experience a night in the life of a medieval monk. When many kids their age were in a dark room playing video games, or at The Village watching suspect movies, this group of students was singing hymns together in chapel, breaking bread together in the refectory, playing together in the quad, and illuminating the Word of God in the scriptorium.
In Psalm 46, God instructs us to “Be still, and know that I am God.” If we know God in stillness, what can we derive from the inverse? Neil Postman famously cautioned that 21st century Americans were in danger of “amusing ourselves to death.” If we know God in stillness, is it possible we forget Him in amusement?
MonCon is a deep and rich experience that goes far beyond just pretending to be a monk for a night. By willingly sacrificing their cell phones, their game consoles, their Netflix accounts, and the many other entertainments that consume so much of their time and attention, our students learn the power of being still: still to sit in a quiet library for an hour and a half, contemplating a God Who loves them infinitely; still to work painstakingly on copying the Word of God; still to listen to music that soothes the soul instead of inflames it.
I’m not sure cultivating the habit of being still has ever been more necessary.