We talk a lot about reverence. What do we mean by this word? Reverence denotes an attitude of extreme respect, even of awe. We revere or respect our parents, the Saints, the President, great heroes of history. We especially revere and respect God, because He is our Creator, the Supreme Being, “Make of all things, Judge of all men”.
Reverence can be shown in many different ways -- lowered voice, a bow, removal of the hat (in the case of men), moving on tip-toe, and so on through a variety of actions and attitudes. There is no single manifestation of reverence nor any universal judgment as to what is reverent behavior.
However, it has long been widely customary for Christians to observe general silence in God’s house, in the special presence of God. This has been true of all Catholic Christians, and perhaps especially of Anglicans. Thus, it is Anglican custom not to engage in conversation after one has entered a church for worship. It is also generally customary not to engage in conversation or more than subdued greetings after a service until one has left the worship precincts proper.
This customary behavior may be one of the reasons why Anglicans are often accused of being cold and unfriendly, when in fact they are only using silence as a mark of external reverence for God. Once in the narthex or other church rooms or outside the building, there can be no reason whatever for reserve, coldness or anything but the most warm Christian friendliness and greetings for all present, whether friends or visitors.
Silence in the church preceding, during and following worship is not only a mark of respect for God. It is also helpful to prayerful contemplation of the service about to begin, and prayerful thanks for the service just concluded. God and His worship should always be approached prayerfully and with self-examination and self-preparation. Five or ten minutes of silence provide and excellent opportunity for this preparation.