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On the 12th day of advent, Jonty gave to me ...

Slow Church Coming

In the last year I've been introduced to the phrase 'slow church'. The Ekklesia Project took it as its theme for its 2012 conference and Chris Smith (of Englewood Review of Books) and John Pattison run a blog and are working on a book (due in 2013) all under the same idea. So it was a nice surprise to open at Stephen Pickard's new book Seeking the Church: A Introduction to Ecclesiology (SCM, 2012) to find its final chapter titled 'Slow Church coming'.

The rest of the book as its subtitle suggests is an introduction to ecclesiology (from a particularly Anglican perspective). It engages, as expected, with Paul Minear, Avery Dulles and Nicholas Healy, but its major conversation partners are Daniel Hardy (especially his work on 'sociality') Colin Gunton. It has chapters on models of the church, relation to the Trinity, mystery, and worship, which all look interesting, but it was the last chapter that grabbed my attention.

Pickard seems to be using the language of 'slow church' independent from others mentioned above. His major conversation partner in this chapter is a former Hauerwas student, Peter Dula, and his recent OUP book on Cavell, Companionship and Christian Theology.  Pickard distinguishes slow church from the fast asleep church (indifferent to cultural changes) and the frentic church (which you could say is indifferent to tradition). Slow church is a pilgrim church, moving and travelling, but with patience, for good things take time. Dula is introduced as a critique of communitarian approach to ecclesiology (identified with Hauerwas, Milbank, MacIntyre and co.), which he ulimtately calls a 'fugitive ecclesia' because it is always disappearing, on the run, beyond our grasp. Pickard ends with suggesting we need a travellling church, a pilgrim church, picking up companions on the way. 

Lots to ponder here, not least it makes me want to read Dula's book. I think there is some mileage in this language of 'slow church'. The best practical theology these days seems to want to remind us of things lost, without wanting (I hope) to trademark a new brand and as a solution to all our ills. 


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