Postcard from Kenya 2: Slow down and turn down the volume

Rt Rev Dr Sam Mawhinney

22.11.2023 | Global Mission, Mission, Moderator, Overseas Tour

The Moderator sends his second postcard from Kenya, where he and his wife Karen are on a 15-day overseas visit. 

Feeling a little peckish I decided to walk to the local supermarket. I soon realised that Kenyans walk slowly, and I remembered the lovely Ki Swahili phrase to describe this, Poly, poly, slowly slowly! 

It was lovely to slow down and take in all that was happening around me, have time to greet people, and the slow service at the counter was all part of the deal. It also makes perfect sense in a warm environment. The biggest contrast I witnessed was a construction site where a lorry with steel rods was being unloaded by a myriad of men, no crane or machines, and as I drove past that site much later that evening, they were still carrying the rods to the site!

The Kenyans have discovered amplification since I was last here 32 years ago. Their worship is extremely loud and an assault on the senses. Delivered with great enthusiasm and devotion to the Lord, but it is loud, and to this Mzunga (white man), they should be encouraged to turn down the volume and rediscover the beauty of their voices and amazing musical and singing ability of three-part harmonies that blessed me so much the last time I was here.

As I rose to preach, words from 1 Kings 19:11-13 came to my mind, where Elijah doesn’t hear God in the wind, earthquake and fire, but in the gentle whisper of God’s voice. And a second time words from Psalm 46, where the Psalmist reminds us that the Lord is our refuge and strength and then instructs us to pause, Selah, and in v10 to “be still and know that I am God.”

How important it is to quieten our hearts and minds as we read and hear God’s Word preached and I was so encouraged by the Kenyan congregations who did just that.

How important it is to slow down and appreciate all that is going on around us in creation, in our daily activities and in our hearts.

I need to encourage myself to slow down and turn down the volume, so that God’s gentle voice can be heard.

Dr Mawhinney is minister of Adelaide Road Presbyterian Church in Dublin and was selected as moderator-designate in February 2023 and officially elected and installed as Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland at the General Assembly on 21 June.

You can read about Dr Mawhinney's overseas visit to Kenya here. Read his first postcard from Kenya here.

You can also follow his travels on X, formerly Twitter, at @pcimoderator.

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