Slow Church, by C. Christopher Smith and John Pattison

If speed kills, is it possible that slowness saves? Christopher Smith and John Pattison contend that it does in this moving new book. On the level of atoms, motion is relative, but in our rushed and hectic lives, fast has become code for “controlling, aggressive, hurried, and stressed,” while slow signifies the opposite: “calm, careful, reflective, still.” Fast is good in emergencies, but don’t we all want to slow down, especially on the weekends? Smith and Pattison think the church should help us do exactly that.

The authors take their title from the slow food movement, which combines nostalgia for the family farm, a growing demand for organic food, and the culinary standards of a gourmand to create a hearty critique of the stomach-churning excesses of industrialized agriculture. Translated into ecclesiology, churches should be more like a sit-down restaurant that grows its own vegetables than a drive-through fast-food joint that cranks out meals meant for the moment and then quickly forgotten.

According to Smith and Pattison, “location is everything” applies to churches as well as restaurants. “A Pinot noir from Oregon’s Willamette Valley,” they explain, “takes on the taste and texture of the grape, the soil, the barrel and the late frost. In the same way, Slow Church is rooted in the natural, human and spiritual cultures of a particular place.” I don’t know the difference between a Pinot noir and Two-buck Chuck, but I know a good idea when I savor one, and the authors have a great metaphor in their glass. Their book deserves a long, unhurried read.