Tuesday, June 17, 2014

My Book Review Summer: Mid-June is Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus

C. Christopher Smith and John Pattison. Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2014.

What does it mean to be part of a household that makes table conversation at mealtime a priority? Do we “grab a bite to eat” so that we can get on with our important projects as a household, or do we understand that time spent preparing and sharing mealtime food and conversation is the essential practice which forms us into family members? C. Christopher Smith and John Pattison expand these questions into the scope of the practices of a church family, which gathers several households into an organization in order to worship publicly together and integrate itself constructively within the broader local community. In their book Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus, Smith and Pattison appropriate the Slow Food movement's concern with economic and ecological health and justice regarding daily food consumption practices in order to critique and celebrate various values and practices which are part of a church culture. The authors build their discussion primarily upon the eschatological vision of Christianity which celebrates and anticipates Christ's accomplishment of the reconciliation of all things (from the cosmic to the particular), and they argue that a local church congregation who wants to follow the way of Jesus needs to be attentive to the tangible, particular attributes and assets of the land, the neighborhood, the people, and the resources which make their own location a unique and prime spot for this slow work of reconciliation.

The book is served up as a thoughtfully planned meal might be, divided into three main sections called “courses.” Each course discusses an alternative or corrective approach in response to unhealthy attributes often found in church organizations which tend to be “attractional, dualistic, and hierarchical.” Whereas the church-growth movement tends to value business and marketing techniques to attract new members to a “developing” location, the first course of Slow Church encourages congregations to reorient their desire to the place they already are, using ecological and agricultural practices such as appreciation for terroir, stability, and patience. While church communities often contribute to the social blights of economic, generational and cultural segregation and rely upon dualistic divisions of work, time and place into sacred or secular categories, Slow Church aspires in the second course to celebrate wholeness, shalom, and reconciliation in human life by seeking a reintegration of social groupings, as well as a communal rhythm which honors the integration of work and rest. The final course discusses how church congregations can resist an economic paradigm of scarcity and a pyramid structure of leadership and instead move into an orientation to economic and ecological abundance and interdependence in order to respond with gratitude, reciprocal service, and hospitality in its organizational practices and routines.

Smith and Pattison season their text throughout with citations to other poets and scholars, which will benefit readers who are interested in a more extensive exploration of a topic which is presented. The book includes brief descriptions of several churches who have implemented Slow Church practices in their communities. Each chapter closes with two or three discussion questions which assists reading groups in conversing about ways to integrate Slow Church values into their own church practices.

As a 30-something mother who is part of an aging and dwindling church congregation in a re-segregating south suburb of Chicago, I feel encouraged through reading this book that our own local space and group will become a peculiar presence within its current and future community, not by following a franchise manual for a quick-fix performance-oriented transformation driven by the anxiety of achieving new member/visitor quotas and deadlines, but by practicing stability, hospitality and patience in the ordinary ways that are profoundly meaningful to the particular people we encounter, even if not flashy or dramatic. I experience “conversion” as a lifetime process of slow and steady transformation in my everyday habits and routines of ordinary life, so I appreciate that these authors are encouraging church groups to aspire to an ongoing conversion process that is akin to the pace of authentic human change and growth.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Sonic Complements to my Practicum Paper

Thanks for responding to my invitation,  this will be worth your extra time!

Following are a few audio-visual resources to enrich your encounter with the ideas in my paper:

1.   A song which laments that spoken words often do not carry the interior personal truths they are meant to carry.     "Sweet Nothing" Florence Welch, performer and  Calvin Harris, writer

2. Dramatic enactment of Mark Antony's speech.  Note his pauses and invitations for audience reflection, response and bodily movement, as well as where his own body goes as he progresses through his speech.  Note the visual and textual objects he uses as rhetorical aides: Caesar's will, Caesar's cloak.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Meaningful quote: Fictional narrative

This is from Nathaniel Hawthorne's House of the Seven Gables (1851)
last paragraph of Chapter 8

Phoebe went, accordingly, but perplexed herself, meanwhile, with queries as to the purport of the scene which she had just witnessed, and also whether judges, clergymen, and other characters of that eminent stamp and respectability could really, in any single instance, be otherwise than just and upright men.  A doubt of this nature has a most disturbing influence, and if shown to be a fact, comes with fearful and startling effect on minds of the trim, orderly, and limit-loving class, in which we find our little country girl.  Dispositions more boldly speculative may derive a stern enjoyment from the discovery, since there must be evil in the world, that a high man is as likely to grasp his share of it as a low one.  A wider scope of view, and a deeper insight, may see rank, dignity, and station all proved illusory, so far as regards their claim to human reverence, and yet not feel as if the universe were thereby tumbled headlong into chaos.  But Phoebe, in order to keep the universe in its old place, was fain to smother, in some degree, her own intuitions as to Judge Pyncheon's character.  And as for her cousin's testimony in disparagement of it, she concluded that Hepzibah's judgment was imbittered by one of those family feuds which render hatred the more deadly by the dead and corrupted love that they intermingle with its native poison.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Douwe is 5

Our son turned 5 the same day that Jeff turned 40, so we had two special birthdays to celebrate on the same weekend.   Douwe's been enthusiastic for mini-golf ever since his aunts and grandma took him mini-golfing for the first time last month.   He wanted a mini-golf birthday celebration and that is what we did.  A great time was had by all four of the boys.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Jeff turns 40

Jeff wanted a very special celebration for his milestone birthday and special is what he got!

 He reserved a special table in The Library Room upstairs of Topolobampo, which is adjacent to a special chef's kitchen.  We had an unforgettable dinner for 12, with several courses, each one as delightful as the next, and a visit from proprietors Deann and Rick!  They came bearing gifts for all (a new cookbook), and we think the special greeting had something to do with Deann's original last name:  Groen.   She is a first cousin to Jeff's father.   The whole evening was fun and festive.  

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

5 months

In May June and July, it was a whirlwind around the house with our special "son" living with us again. He didn't stay as long as in other years but we were glad to host him while we could.

Highlights:  lots of fishing, a few Boy Scout events, canoe trip, beach visits, art lessons, golf lessons, sibling visits. . . it was a whirlwind, so very little blogging for me.

In August, we spend the first 10 days on a great trip in Wyoming and Idaho, camping, resorting and canoeing.

Then a week or so before back to school, for Jess and Douwe!  Douwe is back at Montessori for morning pre-K classes, and I am taking a Literature class at Purdue University.  So it has been a fun transition into fall, but also, very little time taken for blogging.  

But I cannot omit a very special event, which I will post next.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day

We had a picnic lunch at Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk for Mother's Day this afternoon, because it was so fun two years ago . . .the day was nice for climbing the dune, burying Steve in the sand and searching the "river" bank for dead fish and stuff.  Steve and his sister went in for a swim in the super cold lake. . .