Saturday, December 19, 2009

Amtrak report

Wearing clericals on the train was, in fact, as much fun as I expected (demanded?) it to be. I never really have trouble getting into conversations with strangers on Amtrak -- it comes with the territory -- but our conversations took a decidedly more theological tone given the talking piece I wore.
The first comment I received was "oops, I'll have to watch my language around you ma'am." This from a truck-driver who professed later that my collar had "scared the hell out of him -- aah, sorry again." His vocabulary was indeed colorful but it was nothing I hadn't heard before. Despite saying he was scared/shy, he talked a blue streak to me, eventually progressing from saying "ma'am" to "hey, rev," to even "Talitha." His theological concept was clearly and solidly of God as a finger-wagging Santa's helper, looking out for the bad and the good, keeping lists and demanding good deeds to "balance" his bad ones. I tried to share my alternate views, perhaps to mention grace... but he had his mind made up. He did, however, have something to teach me: "you GOTTA use real-life stories in your sermons, cuz how else are you gonna make it make sense to guys like me?" I did heed his warning, and pricked up my ears around me for stories.
I was prepared to be completely ignored by some non-religious people, in deference to the collar, but found this didn't happen -- at least not as far as I could tell. I was still able to strike up friendships with my age-group peers, and was even asked by three fraternity brothers if they could share a table with me in a crowded cafe car.

I got a few completely absurd collar-questions, one notably while brushing my teeth in the larger dressing room downstairs of the Zephyr. I spat, answered with my identity - i'm a seminarian studying to be a pastor - and thought i could get back to brushing but was asked "so what do you have to do to be saved?" which I tried to answer quickly in small words without using churchspeak (grace, faith, repentance). I don't know how well I did, but I certainly feel prepared for my CPM examination on Monday. Going through Colorado there was a young experimental musician who sat near me and fired obscure questions over at random intervals. It was a fun challenge!

I got a few amazing connections because of the clericals -- a Presbyterian elder who serves on a CPM two of my friends are or have been under care of... and in the Chicago amtrak boarding line, I was approached by a fellow-traveler and fellow-PCUSA-blogger, who had read my blog, knew I'd be traveling around the same time as he, and asked if I was madame future moderator!!! What a shock... what a small world!

All in all, it was super, I'm tired, and I'll write more later =)

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