Quite a few years ago I attended a speed awareness course. I was late. Leaving too little time for the journey, I pre-empted the theme of the day – speeding has serious consequences for lives. The police had kindly given me the option of a fine and a further three point addition to my license or a more attractive option of attending a speed awareness course which would nullify the points. I had decided to take the medicine and made the arrangements to attend the course.
I entered a silent room, the class had begun to watch an ancient government-sponsored promotion, “clunk click…” My classmates were an eclectic mix of ages races and professions. The sort of mix that you would expect driving through the Cotswold streets, journeying to places a bit too quickly. These weren’t speedsters or boy racers, reckless and unafraid. This was a class of naughty but redeemable students who were happy to learn their lesson. Jane was a gardener, caught with her dog on the speed camera. Patrick was a joiner, an inexperienced driver, shot by the same speed gun as others in the class. Tony, the salesman, apparently never went over the limit, unlike Lindy, the agency nurse, who enjoyed the thrill of her motorbike’s acceleration. Little did they know that I, dressed in mufti, was a speeding priest.
Our teacher jollied us along through the timetable four hour session of PowerPoint, video, group work and reflection. The learning objective was of the hazards and consequences of speed had been forcefully delivered and well received by the students. As I returned home that evening I became more aware of the road signs and in particular, the speed limits. The growing queue of traffic forming in my rear view mirror only acted to reinforce the message that if we speed through life, we will inevitably create casualties on our way.
My unease about declaring my priestly identity to my classmates had deep foundations. My vocation, like many lay and ordained people, is a long-distance journey where speed only acts to impair awareness. Nurturing the gifts of wisdom and knowledge through silence, stillness and prayer cannot and should not be rushed. Indeed, waiting is a core elements of this time laden journey in which the Christian way is populated by life long learners. Speed at your peril say the prophets, the evangelists and the saints of the Church. Yet speed appears to be a fundamental component of life today. The Christian tradition appears as a deeply counter-cultural sign, revealing the dangers of those who journey too quickly. If we fail to observe the world, become aware of others, or developing an understanding of ourselves, we embark on a race to nowhere.
As we begin the journey of Advent, I wonder if we are able to apply the brakes? Advent is a time for wondering, reflecting, slowing down to a divine pace in which we have time to reflect upon the cosmic events before us. If we have a tendency to speed we also have an opportunity during this season of the colour purple to redeem ourselves, to learn more about God’s walk with humanity. Let’s not fly through Advent; let’s slow down to God’s speed!
(Taken from an article that Gavin wrote for the Church Times)
You are invited to attend a series of Tuesday night Contemplative Communions in Advent at 8pm at St Michael’s with fewer words and more silence.
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