Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Slowing down for silence

I love coffee! I wouldn't consider myself an expert or even a connoisseur, but there is little I love as much as popping into the local Starbucks for a daily or hourly refill. In fact, in reviewing the budget at our church in Derby, we noted that in the first twelve months of my appointment there, the church coffee spend had doubled! (although Im not solely responsible for this!!). 

Now far be it from me to lecture people on their lifestyle habits - no more than ten minutes in my presence would tell any new acquaintances that there were many areas of my life that need correcting and straightening out - but after a short time off sick with flu, I've inadvertently cut down on my caffeine intake quite severely. The results of this are quite interesting. 

On the positive side I feel much more calmer. Ive noticed that Im more attentive to other people, I'm more patient with my two young children, I have less of a compulsion to fiddle with my phone or other device when I'm less active. 

However, I notice that Im also less effective in some ways. The last 18 months of life have been a something of a whirlwind. Im in a demanding job, with a young family, and I've prided myself on my abilities to be on the ball, on top of a mountain of varying issues and now I can sense that my intensity is waning somewhat, my frantic (even manic) space has slowed and it seems I'm less productive.  

I'm wondering whether the reality is that now I've virtually withdrawn a drug from my diet and routine, I'm just learning to function at a normal, more healthy level. Im wondering whether not being on top of everything, not being such a perfectionist is actually closer to real authentic humanity, and closer to the person Im meant to be.  Im wondering too, whether even though I'm less productive, I may just be that more effective. Taking time to think and reflect and make good decisions, make timely pastoral interventions, sensitive to the needs of those around me, increasing the depth of that which I offer to others are all by products of a life less frantic and more calm. 

As a Church Leader, I'm really concerned by the frantic pace of life for so many people. Im concerned that the Church colludes with this subtly (or not so subtly at times) and as an institution becomes even more demanding of people's time and energy. Someone once said to me that any institution is  by its very nature psychopathic - in that it consumes all that it needs to survive. As I continue to serve in an increasingly dysfunctional institution known as the Methodist Church - I see this analysis coming true before my very eyes, and true within my own life too. 

 Of course, when you remove something from a life, people ask what is to replace it. For me, I've tried to replace caffeine fuelled manic activity with a greater appreciation for the discipline of silence. Ive committed myself in this new year to making time to be still and silent for 15 minutes a day, as much as I can to try and drink in the wonder, the love, the majesty of who God is and what He wants for me and those around me. There's something about silence and stillness that centres oneself and brings us to an awareness of the presence of the Other like nothing else. My spiritual 'home' is in the charismatic tradition, where lots of loud activity is so often the order of the day, but just as the charismatic tradition seeks to hear the revelatory voice of God for todays church and world, so to does the more contemplative modes also. 

Maybe for someone reading this, the time may have come to set aside things which we think are propping us up, but actually are just perpetuating the problem (like an over-reliance on caffeine) and maybe you too, want to join me in the discipline (and it can often be a hard discipline) of slowing down to be still and know who God is, and therefore, see more clearly who we are. 

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