Rootedness: the Essence of “Slow Church”

All I have to say is that I had a fantastic time reading Slow Church by C. Christopher Smith and John Pattison. It was a joy to read a book by people who are heavily invested in what they are writing about, both practically as well as spiritually. If asked, this might be the one book (besides the Bible of course) I suggest other Christians, and maybe even ALL people, read.

I want to make this review user friendly, so I’m going to write it in the vein of my book reviews for a certain professor, Dr. Feille. I will write about the three things I will take away from the book, one from each section as there are three sections, as well as one question. Hopefully the authors get wind of this review and offer an answer to my question. So here we go.

1. (Ethics) “The good and abundant life God intends for creation is nurtured through the interdependency of God’s creatures, and this interdependency — as the apple tree community reminds us — flourishes best when we stay put over a long period of time.”

They call this stability, I call it rootedness; tomato or tomato (just imagine the saying…work with me here). In our hyper mobile society, the C/church does its work best when they stay rooted and stable in their community for a long period of time. Through staying active in the same community over generations, the C/church is able to recognize the work God is doing in the community and then can participate there-within to become what they call “catalysts of local culture.” Churches do things to help the community thrive when they have a relationship with the local community. Whether this is becoming a center for the Arts, or hosting Farmer’s Market, or be a host for the Boys and Girls Club, etc., this happens when you have the deep relationship with the community to realize what the community needs.

2. (Ecology) “We sleep into dualism when we make a false distinction between our faith and the rest of our lives.”

I’ve read this before, but it hits me every time. I hate the idea of acting one way in church and another outside. What’s even more is that these authors go into the negative impacts on church/spirituality of nationalism, focus on church growth and the homogenous unit principle, political partisanship, and barring certain people from church. One quote from this last sub-section rings particularly true: “Any theology that refuses to extend hospitality fails to consider God’s love for and the reconciliation of all humanity.” In more DoC words, “All means All.”

3. (Economy) “The whole foundation of the universe rests on this central attribute of God’s character: God gives because it is God’s nature give.” “…gratitude will never be so automatic that we can stop being intentional about it…”

The authors ask us to try and focus on what is given to us as both individuals and as a church community; to focus on what we have, not on what society tells us we need to want. We are bombarded daily with advertisements telling us about the next phone or the next playground our church needs. When we are rooted in our community and truly authentic, we can recognize these as perversions on our desires. We need to recognize God gives of Godself daily and has from the very beginning and maybe even before that and give thanks.

4. (Question) How would you change the church culture of a particular parish to that of Slow Church?

All in all, it was a fantastic book. Like I said, I suggest it to anyone who wants to read about how a church can be and interact more faithfully.

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One thought on “Rootedness: the Essence of “Slow Church”

  1. Will,
    Thanks for the great review!
    A thought or two in response to your question…

    I intended the book’s final chapter, “Church as Dinner Table Conversation” to be an answer to that question — though certainly not the only possible one. Practices of eating and conversing together work on many levels, but here are a few that foster the sorts of virtues that we describe in the chapters at the heart of the book:

    Ethics:
    Eating and conversing together are key practices in nurturing a community that we want to belong to, or in the language of the Ethics chapters, they help reorient our desires toward stability (staying rooted in a community where we feel we belong) and patience (the more we KNOW others, the more we are willing to be patient and grace-full with them) — both of which cut against the grain of McDonaldized culture.

    Ecology:
    The sorts of knowing and being known that happen in eating and conversing, highlight the ways in which our community is still fragmented (and hopefully some insight into how these sorts of fragmentation might be healed over time.) These sorts of knowing also help us to see another another as gift and how everyone’s gifts can be orchestrated in compelling ways to bear witness to God’s reconciling work (Work/vocation chapter).

    Economy:
    Eating together is, of course, an economic act, and a regular practice of it if done well, will lead us into practices of gratitude (to God for the food and to those who grow or prepare the food, who host the meal, etc) and sharing. Following on the above point about knowing the gifts of those in our community, a sort of economy forms as we begin to leverage the gifts that God has provided in both church members and neighbors: people are taken care of, fed, housed, clothed, etc. Maybe this means starting businesses as the church or empowering neighbors to do so. But all these sorts of opportunities flow from getting to know one another through practices like eating and talking and BEING together.

    Anyway… These are my (relatively brief) thoughts on your question. Would love to hear yours and others thoughts!

    ~ Chris Smith

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