I am reading the book Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus, (IVP, 2014), by Chris Smith and John Pattison. This is a wonderful book (so far) that counsels us to slow down and put down roots, to invest in places and in people. This counsel runs counter to our Fast Paced (Fast Food) world. In a chapter on stability (something many of us struggle with -- that is staying put in one place), they speak of learning rhythms of place and person. They write:
Rhythms are learned through attentiveness over time. This becomes harder, especially with regard to our places, when we move around so frequently and when we don't make an effort to connect with those folks who have lived in our neighborhoods for many years and who carry the wisdom and memories of the place. To know the rhythm of a place is to know, for instance, what summers and winters are like and to have experienced enough seasons to recognize when the weather takes a peculiar, unseasonable turn. To know a place is to know where the daffodils bloom, when the birds fly sought for the winter and when to expect the first frost. Places have natural rhythms reflected in elections, taxes, sales, festivals, local holidays and school calendars. These rhythms help define a place. The challenge of our time is to learn and engage with the rhythms of our places. (Slow Church, p., 71).
I've lived in Michigan now for six years (less three weeks). I've lived here long enough to get a sense of some aspects of the place, but by no means am I a Michiganian (I learned from Craig Fahle that Michigander is the term that Ohioans use for people in Michigan -- and its not meant affectionately). I have a cursory understanding of the unsettled rhythms that mark Metro-Detroit. There is great suspicion on both sides of the border of the city of Detroit and its suburbs. In one sense being an outside frees me from the suspicions, but at the same time it can lead to insensitivity to deeply felt hurts. I am a West Coaster, an Oregonian and a California. These two states have been my home for much of my life. I know the rhythms of these places, but for now, my roots have been transplanted to this place -- and so I must attend to the rhythms of the persons and place that mark my current reality.
The question is -- how do we slow down long enough to put down roots so we can know the rhythms that allow for true love to emerge? Or to put it a different way, how do congregations become parishes once again?