Perhaps you’ve heard of the Slow Food movement? It began in the 1980’s as an antidote to the prevalence of fast food restaurants, and has gained some following with people who value locally grown foods and sustainable farming practices. It’s probably not an idea that is going to feed the world’s 7+ billion people, but it is a concept that has merit if we want to appreciate more fully the communal and nourishing aspects of eating, over the feel-good quick fixes of fat, salt and sugar that fast food provide.
This past Sunday on The Washington Post’s Opinion page there was an editorial by a Post copy editor that talked about the long process of adopting new spellings at an institution like the Post. It seems like such a very small thing…email instead of e-mail, mic instead of mike. “Who cares?” a lot of people might say. The world is moving way too fast around too many different, far more important, issues. I, for one, however, am glad that there are still people and institutions that move slowly. People and institutions that don’t simply react to an event or a change, but consider these things and ponder the consequences and mull over the best way forward.
Well, no surprise then that I work for one of the slowest moving institutions of all, thanks be to God! The church, with its 2,000 year old story that can connect us even further back to pre-Christian traditions and ideas, frustrates people who want to move more quickly, who see all of the problems surrounding us and want to fix them now. That is a wonderful impulse to have, of course, especially when held in balance with a longer view that considers changing people’s hearts as a first step to fixing the world. As anyone who is in any kind of relationship can attest, however, people don’t change very easily or quickly!
Slow Church values traditions that don’t always make sense at first. It is a place which frets about punctuation in the service leaflet, which pours resources into its buildings even when they can seem like albatrosses standing in the way of doing God’s work in the world. Slow Church is there though when thousands of blankets collected for Syrian refugees need a place to be stored and it’s there all those times when we need to be reminded that we are better people when we learn to love our brothers and sisters, even when we don’t especially like them, and Slow Church is there when we just need to slow down, to breathe deeply and to ponder something instead of reacting to it.
Doing anything well takes time, whether cooking from scratch or writing or building an institution that can withstand tests of time and endure. I so appreciate the reminders I regularly get from Slow Church to try to do a few things well rather than producing a lot of fast food that ends up being not very nourishing. Advent is a good time and church is a good place to practice slowing down. Good luck! and Happy Advent.