Slow Down

Rev. Mindi Welton-Mitchell, Regional Executive Minister

Slow Down

If you don’t know today’s textspeak TL;DR, that means “Too Long; Didn’t Read,” and usually is followed by a summary.

The TL;DR summary of this piece is, “Slow Down.”

TL;DR is a product of our fast-paced, soundbite attention-splatter world that we are in. It’s often used at the beginning of an email or a blog post or Facebook message to indicate that the writer understands many readers may not have time to read the long message below. Because we don’t have time anymore. We don’t have time to really hear how someone is doing when we ask, “How are you?” and they give any other answer than, “Fine” or “Good.” We don’t have time to read someone else’s pain or heartache or joy or excitement because we are focused on our own lives and the burdens we are carrying and trying to get from one busy moment to the next.

Sometimes, in the church, we are so busy doing the business of the church that we miss what is really going on. We’re more concerned about the budget deficit than a whole family out sick with COVID. We’re more worried about the declining attendance on Sunday than the split caregiving many adults are facing with children and aging parents. We focus on the wrong things: gimmicks to try to get people back into church. Guilt trips to receive more money in the offering plate. We managed to make the leap in the early days of the pandemic (now four years ago!) to streaming worship online, but never fully explored how to use our new online tools for ministry, except as a way to send our own soundbites and sometimes try to encourage people to worship in-person instead of finding new ways to meet people where they are at. We are guilty of being in a TL;DR world because we haven’t slowed down.

In the last few months, I have had the gift of being able to go on retreat at Holy Wisdom Monastery outside of Madison. It is an ecumenical monastery in the Benedictine tradition. The four sisters and the gathered community meet for prayer three times a day: morning, midday, and evening. They follow a set liturgy, and the scriptures, prayers, and readings are read slowly, with intention. The first time I visited, I found myself rushing ahead. Reading a bit faster, the way we sometimes do during Sunday worship. But as I spent more time at the monastery, I recognized what I was missing. In slowing down, each word had a moment to sink in. I could focus on the fact that I was reading words written for me to know God. I was praying and in conversation with God. I was not focused on the next task or the next thing to do, because I was on retreat, and this was my purpose.

What if we made every Sunday like that? A moment when the only purpose is to be in worship of God. To slow down and listen, read, pray, breathe. Far too often on Sundays we may be focused on the next thing to do: grocery shopping, laundry, getting ready for the school or work week, dinner planning. We may even start checking our watch more frequently as the sermon goes on. Preachers sometimes start preaching faster or say, “One more thing and I’m done.” But what if we could slow down?

It may be countercultural, radical, even revolutionary to slow down and savor the moment we are in. To take a deep breath and hold it. The word ruach in Hebrew and pneuma in Greek both mean “breath, wind, and spirit.”  Take a few minutes right now and breathe deeply. Breathe in all the good air that God has given us, the spirit of God within us. Breathe out in gratitude.

Take a few minutes, every day, to read Scripture, but don’t just read it to get through it. Maybe just read one verse, and read it slowly, three times. Let the words sink in. Think about how this was written down for you to know God’s love.

Take a few minutes, and ask someone, “How are you doing?” and listen. Ask more questions. “How are you really doing? How is your family? How is work? What is something that brought you joy today? What makes you sad?” Be present with the other person.

Take a few minutes and ask yourself, “How am I doing today?” Listen to your body: what hurts? What is sore? What needs do you have to slow down and care for yourself? Listen to your mind: what thoughts weigh heavy? What concerns matter to you? Maybe write them down in a journal. Listen to your heart: who is close to you, right now? Who are you grieving? Who do you miss? Who is someone you can always pick up the phone and call? Consider each person, consider your feelings. Create some art or write a letter or a text (even if it’s short, take a few minutes to consider your words!)

Slow down. Take your time to read. Take your time to listen. Stop and smell the flowers, or the grass after the rain. Touch the bark on the trees outside.

Arrive to church early. Take your time to listen to the musicians prepare. Greet the greeters! Pray for those whom you do not see and follow up by calling them or writing a note later.

Take time to remember why you come to church and why you are at this particular church. Let go of the worries about attendance or tithes, and instead, remember the gift of being able to worship God together. Listen to the music, let the words sink in. Write down the scriptures and even if it’s read a bit too fast in the service, come back to it later. Take time in prayer to listen for those concerns and listen to your own heart.

Take your time and slow down, and remember who you are. You are a whole person. You are a gift from God. You are God’s beloved.

Posted in News, Staff Articles.