I am welcoming the arrival of this new book, Slow Church, to my library, to my thinking and to my prayer. The two authors, lay people from two different parts of the United States, have thoughtfully and deliberately presented a model of being church that is not so much an alternative to much of present day church life, as it is a call to remembering and acting on first principles of what it means to be the gathered people of God—worshiping and serving.
I am grateful for the reminders of a theology of the Holy One that reflects the character and intent of God in a way that is counter to so much of what is offered as advice for current congregations: Slow Church seeks to anchor itself in the deep, still waters of a remarkable patient yet radically, immanent God. (24) I find myself deeply resonant with the unfolding implications of this starting point. As one who began ordained ministry in two very large churches, the importance of this theology of the slow work of God and its concomitant call on the life of those gathered in a particular place has grown in me over more than thirty years. So many of the implications that the authors draw from their understanding of Church have developed in my own ongoing understanding of ministries: patience, stability, Sabbath, gratitude and hospitality—over time.
I read this book with joy to hear voices that are calling the people of God to call a cultural fast-track mentality into question. I read this book with questions: how could these principles work in a large denomination? A large city? A culture of commuters? A place where members and children had special needs? I wondered how retired clergy professionals such as myself could learn to retool their sensibilities to lead in a new way.
However, I read this book primarily wistfully, with a hope and a prayer, that in God’s intended rule, more people of the Jesus Way could enter into a slow, intentional, trusting walk together with the Holy One, that had ample time and space to listen to what the Spirit is doing in their location and then with creativity and imagination seek to be the Light on the hill, or on the plain, or in the suburbs and towns. This book helps us all discern carefully what is most needed, and what most faithfully embodies Christ’s intent in the world. I recommend it with joy!