Potluck | September 1, 2023

Of slowness and buoyancy

Woman swimming in a pool
Photo from pixabay.com

What do planks and underwater mountain climbers have in common?

Both exercises appear in classes at my local gym, which is walking distance from my house and offers a low monthly fee and a wide range of activities.

When getting to know the place, it took me a while to try “Aqua Fitness.” I wasn’t sure that was really exercise. Participants look like bobbing heads above slightly rippling water. They don’t seem to be doing anything. There is no sweat involved.

I learned differently once I finally went to a class. Water offers a lot of resistance, so underwater motion requires effort. Walking and kicking can only be done in a weird slow-motion fashion.

Water reduces body weight, making exercise easier on feet and joints. It lifts. It also provides resistance, making actions happen . . . slowly.

What do aqua aerobics and Annual Conference have in common?

When we meet together as the body of Christ, we bear one another’s burdens. Annual Conference participants do this through offerings, worship, encouraging words, and simply showing up and smiling.

This year the Church of the Brethren news director unexpectedly could not attend Conference because of illness. In trying to cover Annual Conference news, I was lifted by writers and photographers Karen Garrett, Keith Hollenberg, Wendy McFadden, Donna Parcell, Frank Ramirez, Glenn Riegel, Laura Sellers, Frances Townsend, and Walt Wiltschek. I did not bear the full weight of expectations alone.

That week the news team experienced many instances of kindness. Someone helped carry press room supplies. Others shared photos and videos of meals and equipping sessions. When there was a quick request for a picture of all the volunteer photographers, someone interrupted a busy morning to take the photo.

I gratefully observed the apostle Paul’s instructions put into action: “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).

The image of exercising in water provides a tangible goal for how to be, whether in fellowship with one person or one thousand. How can I embody the living water? How can I lift people up? How can I lighten the heavy loads pressing them down?

Water buoys up, protecting joints, the vulnerable places where disparate parts come together. Its resistance forces muscles to strengthen.

During Annual Conference business, I saw the slow-motion pace, the resistance, that happens when disparate people make decisions together. Sometimes the amendments to amendments to amendments created an almost comedic “Who’s on First?” effect.

What if, instead of inwardly criticizing the lengthy discussion, we recognize that it could be protecting parts of the body? The right kind of slowness demonstrates love toward others, giving time for people starting from many different world views to reach agreement together.

This is countercultural and perhaps even radical in a society where tech companies have grown precipitously with the motto “Move fast and break things.”

Deliberation can frustrate—but it can also strengthen us. The book of James seems to agree: “And let endurance complete its work, so that you may be complete and whole, lacking in nothing.” Could painstakingly careful time together contribute to making us whole?

What do the living water and the Church of the Brethren have in common? What could they have in common?

Jan Fischer Bachman is web editor for Messenger and web producer for the Church of the Brethren.