Monthly Archives: April 2016

Bicycle power

Today I attended a lunch conversation at the Columbus Metropolitan Club.  CMCer Jane Scott is President and CEO and was a gracious host at her CMC.  Among other things, Columbus Metropolitan Club hosts weekly Wednesday lunches which are community conversations across a range of topics.  Today’s topic: Bicycle Power: On the Path to Bikes.

The three presenters were Kerstin Carr of the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC); Jennifer L. Gallagher, Department of Public Service Director; and Catherine Girves, Executive Director of Yay Bikes!  Here are some things I learned, and hopefully wrote down correctly:

About ¼ of the footprint of downtown Columbus is for car parking, and a recent study showed that one parking space costs about $20,000 to build and maintain.  Biking and alternatives to cars are growing in popularity with folks in their 20’s and 30’s, but there are many folks interested in biking more who don’t fit age or demographic stereotypes.   Carr grew up in Germany and noted that her grandmother biked until she was 85.  A MORPC study called Insight 2050 estimated that Central Ohio will grow by half a million people 2010-2050 and transportation options, including walker and biker friendly design, is part of what regional leaders are planning for.

Director Gallagher noted that her department now requires that all engineers designing projects around Columbus first ride bikes on the streets around which the project will be built.  Seeing an area through the eyes of a biker has had significant impact on new project designs.

Columbus is now one of seven mid-size cities competing for a $40 million grant from US Department of Transportation to improve regional bikeability.  Part of what the Columbus team is including in their design proposal is connecting poorer neighborhoods such as Linden to bike arteries, working to repair some of the damage done when interstates sliced up urban areas into isolated pockets.

One of the speakers cited the American Disabilities Act, noting that research has shown that making spaces handicap accessible benefits everyone.  People become more aware and courteous.  She made an analogy to bike accessibility, and how normalizing biking can help motorists as well.  Part of the mission of Yay Bikes is training people how to bike well and safely.  Being predictable in how one bikes down a street makes it safer for biker and car driver.

We were told what seemed like an inside scoop on a downtown bike hub project, modeled on what some other cities have done.  The bike hub would have free secured parking space, showers, lockers, and perhaps a bike repair center.  The corner of Long and Front was mentioned in the conversation.

An audience member during Q and A noted that she works for AAA and they are launching a bike breakdown roadside assistance service.

MORPC will soon be releasing the fifth edition of its Columbus Metro Bike Map.

Jump on a bike and move with the movement!

 

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Worshiping as a guest

This past Sunday was part of a week of spring vacation.  For obvious reasons, I don’t often get to experience worship at other congregations.  Our family spent Sunday afternoon and evening in the cathedral of the southern Ohio forest looking for wildflowers, but in the morning I took Eve and Ila to worship at First Unitarian Universalist Church, just up High Street.  Here are some observations after being a guest at another church:

As soon as we parked I found myself looking around, seeing who else was walking toward the church entrance.  What kind of people would I be spending the next hour with?  The front door led into a hallway, and we needed to walk through the hall before getting to a foyer area.  I noticed not being greeted by anyone as soon as we walked in the door.  When we got to the foyer I spotted one of their pastors who I’ve gotten to know.  She greeted us warmly and answered every question we had about where the sanctuary was and what would be happening with child care.  There were some people eating in the kitchen area right by the foyer and I wondered what other activities had already been happening that day.  I noticed things on the walls as we walked toward the sanctuary, a first sign of what a church values.

We received a bulletin right outside the sanctuary door and the greeters offered kid packets to us.  We were early so had our pick of seats.  The worship participants and pastors were still doing some set up, testing microphones, being both serious and humorous together.

A temple bell was rung, which gently directed attention to the front and signified the start of the service.  A member of the Board of Trustees gave a welcome, followed by a word from one of the pastors.  The flame of a chalice was lit by a child, and she had a bit of trouble lighting it, but she figured it out and it was lovely to watch.  Her name, and parents’ names, were printed in that part of the bulletin.  There were three pastors sitting up on the platform the whole service.  I pondered how this felt different from a platform with no one but the active leader.

They had a children’s time story and I went forward with both girls.  After taking a seat I noticed that all the other kids remained standing the whole time.  The leader assured them it was OK to wiggle, which Ila soon did.  When the kids were dismissed I was grateful for the adults who volunteered their time to watch my children.  Eve’s age would normally be in the service, but it was a “Justice Sunday” and they had their own session, talking about gender and transgender and current cultural attitudes and related laws.

There was a time of extended silence after one of the songs, which I greatly appreciated.  There were two readings, one from Anne Lamott, one a rabbinic tale which was told from memory.

A guest speaker, a UU pastor, told a story about how a trip with her congregation’s youth to Transylvania, one of the places Unitarianism began, transformed the youth in understanding their faith.  It made me wonder if, every four years, we could take our youth on a learning trip to the early Anabaptist sites in Europe.  We could pull that off, right?

At a couple points in the service the microphone didn’t function properly.  You remember these kinds of things, for some reason.

I was conscious of how many times they said “Unitarian Universalist” throughout the service and wondered how many times, on average, we say “Mennonite.”

There was a blessing to end the service and everyone joined hands in a way that made it seem like that’s what they do every week.  The extinguishing of the chalice was part of the service, and a note in the bulletin said, “We extinguish this flame, but not the light of meaning, the warmth of community, or the fire of commitment.  These we carry in our hearts and out into all the world.”

A couple people smiled my way as I left the sanctuary.  I had a brief conversation in the foyer with someone I know through BREAD.  He mentioned how important the congregation is to him.  There was a stand selling fair trade coffee.  I went and found the girls and we headed out of the church to go get ready to drive toward the wildflowers, talking about transgender, why they didn’t read from the Bible, and what a nice day it was for a hike.  I did feel like I was carrying a flame in my heart throughout the day.

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On a related note: May 29th we’ll be cancelling worship at CMC (as renovations are in full swing) and encourage everyone to worship at a congregation that is predominantly non-white.  We hope this contributes to our learning of Black Lives Matter and antiracism.  I hope we can tell stories about what we experience.  We’ll be providing a list of suggested places to worship that day.

 

Giving and withholding blessing

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For the last six years I’ve served on the Ministerial Committee of Central District Conference.  We oversee credentialing of pastors and chaplains, and give support to CDC pastors and our conference minister, Lois Kaufmann.  Along with the other committees and the board of CDC, we meet twice a year at Camp Friedenswald in southern Michigan.  This past Friday and Saturday were the final meetings I’ll attend before my term ends this summer.

Much of the conversation this time around had to do with our conference’s relationship to Mennonite Church USA – or rather, how the denomination is relating to us.  Our denomination is quite theologically diverse and has different views of where authority should be held.  CDC has always given congregations freedom to discern their own path while remaining in relational accountability with one another.  Other conferences emphasize more clearly defined guidelines and expectations.  Because CDC is willing to credential all qualified pastors called by a congregation, regardless of sexual orientation or gender expression, our conference will undergo a “peer review” by a panel of denominational representatives.  The review is not designed to be punitive, but is the denomination’s way of calling us out on something considered out of line with its “teaching position.”  There’s more that could and will be said about this over the next few months.

One thought coming off the weekend is the power wielded in how people and organizations give or withhold blessing.  CDC has chosen to extend the blessing of credentialing to all qualified persons called to a vocation of ministry.  MC USA has chosen to withhold its blessing from CDC’s readiness to bless persons who are LGBTQ.  It doesn’t mean CDC can’t extend the blessing, but not being blessed in our blessing is a spiritual and relational loss, a wound in the church body.

In our congregational life we extend blessings to one another.  We recently blessed two children and their parents as we dedicated them into congregational life.  This coming Sunday we’ll bless a new mentor/mentee pair as they begin their journey together.  We bless when someone is baptized, when a couple marries, when new members join the church, when someone moves away, when we pray for one another.  There are things we cannot bless.  We cannot bless violence and greed.

Blessing is powerful.  It’s an action of expansion, of amplification.  It takes what is, celebrates and honors it, and enables it to become more.  Blessing is an act of creation.  It’s a holy act, a Godly act, and one we have the privilege of doing for one another in all kinds of formal and informal ways.

Blessing always goes two ways.  To bless blesses the blesser and the blessee (to make up a couple words).  Which is one of the reasons I feel, at this point, sorrier for our denomination than our conference.  Our denomination is not yet able to bless that which many of us have discovered to be good and beautiful.

There are so many factors making us feel powerless in life, but we always have the power to bless.