Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

Slow Down and Know That I Am God

Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

Slow Down and Know That I Am God

Article excerpt

Why it's time for a conversation about Slow Church.

IN SPRING 1986, a group of Italian activists led by Carlo Petrini launched a protest against the opening of a McDonald's near the famous Spanish Steps in Rome. This protest marked the origin of the Slow Food movement, which has spread over the last 26 years to more than 150 countries.

Following this Slow Food effort came a host of other Slow movements-Slow Cities, Slow Parenting, Slow Money, and more-that collectively raise opposition to the speed and industrialization of Western culture. Slow movements are beginning to recover what we have lost in our relentless pursuit of efficiency. Many Christians have been challenged by these Slow movements to consider the ways in which our faith has begun to move too fast as we make sacrifices to the gods of efficiency.

This quest has sparked a renewed interest in the joys of sharing life together in local congregations and has intensified into a growing conversation-rather than a movement-called Slow Church. Slowness itself is not a cardinal virtue of Slow Church, but rather a means of resisting the present-day powers of speed in order to S be faithful church communities.

The biblical vision of God's mission in the world is God's reconciliation of all creation (see, for example, Colossians 1:15-23 and Isaiah 65:17-25). But too often we narrow the scope of our faith and ignore the massive damage that incurs. Some Christians reduce the faith to four easy steps to stay out of hell, others to a set of techniques for growing a large church, and still others to a political ideology (of the Right or the Left). Christianity has also been reduced by some to a feel-good spirituality that has little or no bearing on the rest of our lives or in the public square.

Slow Church places value on local congregations and recognizes that our Western preference for individualized faith, over and against faith communities, is one of the shortcuts that has been taken as the Christian faith has accelerated over the course of the modern era. We prefer to act as autonomous individuals or, on the other extreme, to work for justice on the largest global scale possible. Of course, we should desire Gods reconciliation in all parts of creation, but if we can't love and be reconciled with our brothers and sisters that God has given us in our local con-gregation, how can we expect to love people in other places around the globe in deep and sustainable ways? The Local church is the crucible in which God forges us slowly-and often painfully-into the shalom of reconciliation intended for all creation.

A GOOD DEAL of synergy exists between the "new monasticism" movement and the Slow Church conversation. Many of the 12 characteristics that define new monasticism are pillars of the Slow Church conversation, including geographical proximity, intentional formation in the way of Christ, supporting local economies, and a disciplined contemplative life. 'Ihere are many parts of this conversation, but three major streams stand out: ethics, ecology, and economy.

ETHICS. The Slow Church emphasis on ethics focuses on recovering the joys and goodness of Christian faithfulness in a local church community. These joys include stability in a place, the familial community that we have been given in the local church, the bearing of each other's burdens, and the goodness of work in a labor-saving world inclined to avoid toil and suffering. Gerhard Lohfink has noted the evangelistic function of joy in our life together: "[In this world,] joy in God's story is ultimately stronger than all inertia and greed, so that this joy continually seizes people and gathers them into the people of God." Slow Church aims to recover the gospel of Jesus as a message that is not a religious burden, but rather-in a deep and everyday fashion-is truly good news.

ECOLOGY. By focusing on ecology, the Slow Church conversation remembers that humankind is part of an interconnected creation that God is at work reconciling. …

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