Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Jesus Is on the Mainline/theBee(B)line/the DLine/the Blueline

I first heard the term "Mainline Protestantism" in seminary, some people now call it Oldline Protestantism.  At the time, I was just relieved my denomination, American Baptist Churches, USA, was part of the club.  I still love my denomination, but it is a pointless point whether or not we are part of the mainline club.  The origin of the term though is fascinating.  

Supposedly, Mainline Protestantism derives its name from the suburban churches along the Philadelphia Main Line, rail road line, that ran from the city center of Philadelphia to Pittsburgh via Harrisburg.  In the wealthy Philly suburbs along the Mainline were representatives of the "Seven Sisters of American Protestantism": Episcopalian, United Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, American Baptist, UCC, Disciples of Christ.  The line is now owned and operated by both SEPTA Regional Rail and Amtrak, "Keystone East." 

At one time American Christians identified themselves not by roads, but by a passenger train route.  Looking now at the "Mainline route" we see the folly of Mainline churches (wealthy communities disconnected from the urban core).  Is it any wonder all of the Seven Sisters are dropping in numbers?  {Ahem, the American Baptist Churches, USA are barely growing thanks to our thriving immigrant/refugee populations.}  

Now, there is a chance to reverse that trend: as America transitions from an auto-centric to people-centric culture I am curious if there is room for a new designation of American faith communities.  Can we once again be known for our proximity to bike lanes, walking routes (urban pilgrimage routes), and public transit? (fun fact, the Department of Transportation Secretary, Pete Buttigieg, is an Episcopalian).  

Last week while noodling around for a Dave Walker (clergy especially, if you don't know Dave's work get to know it!) cartoon I stumbled up a November 22, 2018 article written by Carlton Reid for Forbes, "Church Leaders Become Evangelists for Cycling".  I have no idea how I missed this article, it is amazing!  Warning shameless book plug approaching: How I could've used this article for my book (forthcoming in 2022)!  

The article focuses on the Diocese of Manchester's (in the U.K.) to become more environmentally conscious/active by highlighting churches along Beelines (bike lanes through the city).  
I've never broken the 10th commandment so much in my life after watching this video.  

The video made me think about churches/communities of faith along Minneapolis/St. Paul bike paths, the Greenway, the BRT (bus rapid transit) routes (A, B, C, D-Lines) and the light rail (current routes) and the expansion routes: Southwest Light Rail and especially the Bottineau (because there are several possibilities of the new route).  This video also made me wish I had taken more geography and cartography classes in college.  

The Twin Cities metro area is roughly ten times the geographical size of the Manchester diocese, but equal in population - density matters!  On the one hand, what they (Diocese of Manchester) created is out of scale for the Twin Cities.  On the other hand, with the rising popularity of e-bikes I believe their scheme is possible for this area (or your area!).  I feel like an integrated and interactive map of public transit, bike lanes, and walking routes with pins for churches would be a worthwhile project.  I wonder if I can talk a college student into making this their senior project?  

How close is your church to a bike lane?

How close if your faith community to public transit?

How close if your house of worship to a popular walking route?  


  1. Thanks so much for sharing our video and your idea about mapping sounds great. We really do all need to be adapting to the post-car culture!

    1. Andy Salmon, from Sacred Trinity Church in Salford, Greater Manchester.