Music & the Spoken Word: Our own ‘Silent Minute’


Editor’s note: “The Spoken Word” is shared by Lloyd Newell each Sunday during the weekly Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square broadcast. This was recorded in London, England, on June 16, 2022, and will be given on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2023.

Standing behind me in newly refurbished glory after almost five years of reconstruction, polishing and paint is the British icon known as Big Ben. It stands prominently on the north end of the Houses of Parliament, on the edge of the River Thames.

To be precise, Big Ben is actually the name of the largest of the tower’s five bells. The tower itself is officially titled Elizabeth Tower, after Her Majesty the Queen, and the clock is named the Clock of Westminster. But to many people here in London and around the world, the bells, tower, and clock together are known simply as Big Ben.

Much has happened during Big Ben’s lifetime. Motor cars have replaced horses and carriages, electricity has replaced gas streetlights, and the Tube — London’s underground rapid transit system — was built below where this famous timekeeper stands. Since 1859, with only a few interruptions, the reliable chimes of Big Ben have helped Londoners mark the passage of time. But at a pivotal moment in British history, Big Ben’s chimes marked something more important than simply the start of another hour.

Big Ben clock tower is centered between two buildings and all are dark silhouettes against a sunset, with purple, red, pink and orange.

The Elizabeth Tower, known as Big Ben, of the Houses of Parliament, is seen in London, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023

Kin Cheung, Associated Press

During World War II, when England was subjected to nightly air raids, a British major had the idea of inviting citizens to unite in a regular moment of silence — a time to pause and pray for peace. The idea was embraced by King George VI, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and millions of people in and out of the United Kingdom, regardless of their faith tradition.

Each day at 9 p.m., Big Ben’s familiar bell tolled on British radio, signaling to listeners the nightly beginning of what came to be called the “Silent Minute.” It might be said that Big Ben was helping the people mark, in Churchill’s words, “their finest hour” (see “Their Finest Hour,” Winston Churchill’s address to the House of Commons, June 18, 1940, winstonchurchill.org).

World War II, of course, has ended. But the need for peace in our lives has not. And while we can’t stop time from ticking away, perhaps we can stop ourselves occasionally. Maybe we can pause and take some time — if only a minute — to pray and ponder and hope for peace. Our own silent minute could be just what we need to renew our intent to pursue peace of mind, peace of conscience, peace in our relationships, and peace in the world around us.

Tuning in …

The “Music & the Spoken Word” broadcast is available on KSL-TV, KSL News Radio 1160AM/102.7FM, KSL.com, BYUtv, BYUradio, Dish and DirecTV, SiriusXM (Ch. 143),  tabernaclechoir.org, youtube.com/TheTabernacleChoir and Amazon Alexa (must enable skill). The program is aired live on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. Mountain Time on these outlets. Look up broadcast information by state and city at musicandthespokenword.com/viewers-listeners/airing-schedules.

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