The Slow Work of God

“Above all, trust in the slow work of God, our loving vine-dresser.” ~Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Impatience has become a contemporary virtue. Speed seems to drive decision making. The Future has taken over the Past, trampling the Present in the rush forward. I often hear people tell me they are unable to sit still or take time for prayer, for quiet reflection or soul-care. Thanks be to God for such wise resources as the new book, Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus, by C. Christopher Smith and John Pattison, published by IVP in 2014. Though I’ve just begun reading this work, this book speaks wisdom to my soul as a resident of a village on the north Oregon Coast, where people getaway from the concept of “fast” to begin to learn to breathe and live once again. As pastor since 1993 of a Community Church, a people who are seeking to root our lives into the terrior of our coastal soil, I believe in the Benedictine vow of stability, a commitment to community in a specific location, a commitment to God’s slow work of growing our lives. Learning to trust within community is indeed slow work calling for the deep virtues of patience and forbearance, the willingness to put up with those in a rush, those who rudely demand their own way rather than learn to to trust in God’s slower way of growth. In their book Slow Church, Smith and Pattison serve up three “slow food” courses: Ethics, including chapters on Terrior, Stability and Patience; Ecology, including chapters on Wholeness, Work, and Sabbath; and Economy, including chapters on Abundance, Gratitude, and Hospitality. Sounds Benedictine to me. Smith is a resident of Silverton, a stone’s throw from Mount Angel Abbey where I go to learn over and over to “trust the slow work of God, our loving vine-dresser.” This de Chardin quote is found at the beginning of the Introduction of Slow Church, a sentence that may take some readers a bit of time to chew upon and digest. In the conclusion of Slow Church the authors write, “On the threshold of our own doors–in our churches, neighborhoods and homes–God is already at work. Slowing down, we see it, and we hope you can too. . . . Life, breath, food, companionship–every good thing is a gift from the abundant providence of God. The kingdom of God, this great economy, is embodied in the world when God’s people respond to God’s provision with gratitude, sharing God’s gifts generously with others (Slow Church, 224).”