Going Slow: Sustaining Transformation for the next 100 years

Hope is the power to keep focusing on the larger vision while taking the small, often undramatic, steps toward that future.” – Mitri Raheb* 

Dear friends,

Over these past two years as we at The Warehouse – with our wider community of friends – have remained committed to being a listening and discerning community, we have sensed and leant into an invitation that we have previously shared with you:

“Going far. Going slow. Going together”

At the heart of this is the well-known and much quoted proverb born from our continent: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”.

In these words, it is implied that to go together and therefore to go far, means to go a bit slower. But what does going slow really look like? And how do we sustain a slow steady forward movement that can sometimes feel excruciating and frustrating, especially in the face of the oppression, injustice, death, destruction, and dehumanizing conditions that the majority of people in our country, continent and globe endure?

We have indeed found, as the words of Raheb affirm, that it is crucial to have our eyes and hearts set on visions of freedom, justice and equality while applying those same eyes and hearts to the day-by-day, slow and steady steps in front of us. We hold firm to the prophetic imagination of a new heaven and a new earth where children are not born to destruction, where people build houses and live in them, plant vineyards and eat from them (Isaiah 65:17-25) and a society in which each person lives under their own fig tree and their own vine and no-one can make them afraid (Micah 4:2-5).

But as Jesus followers and justice seekers who want to collaborate with each other in continuing the justice and peace work of our ancestors, we need, alongside this prophetic vision, to become proficient in the kind of social analysis that will help us effectively identify and address the death-dealing forces at play in our world today. For this work, we continue to be inspired and equipped by the teachings of scholars who unpack the nature, methods and consequences of global empires, and teach us how to live faithfully in resisting these, and creating alternative God-envisioned realities that foster life (noting the work of Raheb, Nikondeha, Brueggemann and many others)**.

Empires rise and fall over long, crushing periods of time: three, four hundred years, as those of us in Africa can affirm as we still navigate the effects of colonial empires on our day-to-day living conditions and power struggles. Rev. René August builds on these scholars’ work, teaching us that to live faithfully in the face of Empire is to realise that our lives are marathons and not sprints, even relay marathons across many generations. And she reminds us that how one breathes during a sprint is not how one breathes in a marathon. We must find pace, breath and rest rhythms, perseverance, and nourishment for the long run.

We still live as a global society under the devastating might of competing Empires that use violence, fear, lies and manipulation to keep every continent and country of our world living with gross inequality, exerting firm control with the ways of economic, military, political, religious and social power – a complete antithesis of God’s vision of shalom, humanity and shared goodness.

To navigate this, we have help from our Biblical texts and especially the accounts of Jesus’ birth, life, execution, resurrection, and following communities.  Reading these texts in conversation with our world and our contexts, in community with others – especially those bearing the brunt of the might of Empire – shows us how to tend to and interrupt the cycles of our generational and collective trauma, helps us learn how to breathe and pace ourselves, and gives us the guidance to be part of and create faithful life-affirming communities and praxis wherever we are … and in Raheb’s words, helps us foster a living hope for justice and peace that holds the “power to keep focusing on the larger vision while taking the small, often undramatic steps towards that future.”

During this advent season and time of preparing for a new year – even while recovering from the year and years gone by – we pray that you will find signs of the blessing of this living hope, near and far. Thank you for your faithfulness. We are tired but we have each other. Go slow, and be gentle with yourselves.

With love,

Faith in the Face of Empire: The Bible through Palestinian Eyes
** First Advent in Palestine – Kelley Nikondeha 
    Prophetic Imagination – Walter Brueggeman

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