Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Car-Free Conference Travel

Last week I went to Denver, CO to offer a Church on the Move workshop for the Evergreen Association of the American Baptist Churches, USA.  My options to get there were:

1. Rent a car and drive: 13 hours and 13 minutes.

2. Take a bus to Kansas City then another bus to Denver:  23 hours and 40 minutes.

3. Fly via Delta: 2 hours (organization paid for travel). 

I opted for the third choice.  

When I arrived in Denver I purchased a RTD day pass: $10.50.  The ticket took me to Union Station in downtown Denver.  Union Station is a gem of a building. I was most impressed with the train and bus connections available at the station.  I walked to my hotel, checked in, then rented a Lime bike and biked the Cherry Creek trail and the South Platte River trail.  After dinner I got back on the bus (remember, I had a day pass) and took it to REI to rent a bike for 24 hours (cost was $32). 

I don't know why I never thought of renting a bike from REI before.  The next morning I rode the bike back to Union Station and hopped on the Flatiron Flyer to Boulder, CO (another RTD day pass).  My bike fit on the front of the bus (they have space for an additional seven bikes on the bus, where luggage goes on other passenger buses).  

In Boulder I met a friend and biked a 20 mile loopdeloo route around and in and throughout the city.  What a city, but I gotta tell you I've never been in a city where every resident looked like they could complete an Ironman and/or kick my a$$.  

After a great ride and lunch, it was nice to put the bike back on the bus, sit back and relax as I was driven back to Denver!

The remaining two days I did not rent or ride another bike, instead I walked and walked and walked around the city.  The whole point of this post is to show that rather than spend $50-$100 a day on a car rental, purchase transit day passes and/or rent a bike, explore the sights and smells and delights of the city you are conferencing in.  Not only will you get to see and experience more the city, you'll also feel better - because nothing is worse than going to a conference, sitting all day and eating rubber chicken.  Move a little. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Sidewalking It: Blessing of the Animals (and Bikes) 2022

October 4th is the feast day of St. Francis, it's also the birthday of Walter Rauschenbusch.  Most churches observe the feast day of St. Francis with a Blessing of the Animals on the Sunday before the feast day.  Churches enjoy having sanctuaries full of pets on these Sundays.  

I too enjoy churches full of humans and non-humans. But this year I tried an experiment: holding the blessing outside of church on the sidewalk; and instead of doing it during a worship hour, offer it at an hour when pets are out and about, like 4-6pm when they are out for their evening walk...

So we offered the blessing of the animals on Tuesday, Oct. 4th, from 4-6pm on the sidewalk in front of the church.  It was a great experiment.  What happened?

At 4:01 a neighbor brought over their cat (in a cardboard box).  I asked them if they knew about the Wedge's cat tour, they did not.  And how many hours a day they spend watching cat videos on twitter.  Don't worry, we all do it.  

From there it was a steady stream of dogs and cats and bikes and a scooter.  I figure St. Francis would approve of bike and scooter blessings too.  

True, I did not bless as many animals as I would have if this had taken place during a Sunday morning worship service.  However, because we did it outside, on the sidewalk, on a Tuesday during the late afternoon, I was able to have several one-on-one in-depth conversations with neighbors (many I had never met, after being the pastor for 10 years - church doors are hard to open) about life, about their pets, about their pets' healing presence, how much joy they bring to life; we also talked about how wonderful it is to bike in the Twin Cities, the promise of bike buses (see below for more info), and how it is nearly impossible to find someone riding a bike without a smile on their face.  

But what about the people who do not live in the neighborhood, go to Judson, and want their pets blessed too?  I did not think about this until someone brought this point up to me.  It's a great point.  2023 will be a combo event.  Sunday morning pet blessing during worship AND a sidewalk blessing in the evening (probably on a Sunday too). 

What is a bikebus?  Check this out.

And if you are searching a good book on St. Francis, please check out Jon Sweeney's fabulous book: Feed the Wolf

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

New Podcast, maybe the best yet; and why Amazon reviews matter (even if you buy the book from your local bookshop)

A few weeks ago the Office Admin. at Judson Church (a wonderful human being by the way) forwarded me an email, a request for me to be a guest for a podcast interview.  I was skeptical because I had not heard of the organization.  But I checked them out, they looked legit.  I emailed Judson Press, they said "Go for it."  

Here's the deal, most of, if not all, of the previous guests on the podcast were megachurch pastors.  I thought for sure they had me confused for another pastor, perhaps they thought I was the pastor of Church on the Move (an actual megachurch in Tulsa, OK) rather than author of Church on the Move (an actual book published by Judson Press).  I thought, well at the very least this will be fun when they realize I am not who they think I am. 

I scheduled the interview with low expectations. But I gotta tell ya, the interview was amazing.  The interviewer, Frank Barry, did not know who I was or why he was interviewing me (nor did I), but he trusted his staff!  We had a delightful conversation, I think Frank really got my approach to local church ministry.  

After the podcast I contacted the production staff at and asked how they found me and picked me (for which I am truly grateful).  My selection was nothing more than a chance encounter/recommendation on Amazon. Friends, your Amazon reviews mean something (even if you bought the book directly from Judson Press or a local bookshop).  

So if you have a moment, write a review of Church on the Move (the book, the one authored by me - yes there is more than one book with this title).  And then go and write a review of a book your friend or your pastor or your favorite professor or your favorite poet or your novelist wrote!  

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Collect for Getting to School on the First Day of School

 Collect for Getting to School

Loving God,
who desires to protect us as a mother hen gathers her brood under her wings.
Protect all children who 👟 🚲♿️ or 🚌 to 🏫 this year;
that they may be blessed with health & happiness & learning,
through the Savior who was once a child.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Podcast/video interview with the Lewis Center for Church Leadership

A few weeks ago I was interviewed by the good folks at the Lewis Center.  I have been listening to their podcast and using their resources for years.  If you don't subscribe to their material - you should! 

Here is the video. Hope you enjoy.


Saturday, July 23, 2022

A Sermon on Day 1 (radio program): Prayer Lessons

A few weeks ago I took the bus to the north loop in Minneapolis and recorded a sermon for Day 1.  I think it will probably stand as my best sermon ever.  The content was above average (for me), but what made this sermon outstanding was the audio engineering.  I've never been able to go back and redo one sentence here and another sentence there or excite the transition more (I just made that phrase up, but you understand).  

And it was great to spend some time, virtually, with Peter Wallace - probably one of the nicest and most genuine people you will meet on planet Earth. 

The sermon is a condensed version of my book, Church on the Move.  

Go here to listen to the sermon and chat with Peter.  

Saturday, July 9, 2022

New Book Commercial via StreetFilms

A couple of weeks ago Clarence Eckerson of StreetFilms was in town to make some new movies about the updates to the biking infrastructure in the Twin Cities.  As part of his time here myself and the pedalingprofessor organized a ride to show Clarence some of our favorite parts of Minneapolis.  About 10 people joined us.  It was great fun and Clarence is a fun, gregarious and charming human being.  I gave Clarence a copy of my book, Church on the Move.  He in turn, asked me a little about it then turned that into a book promo!  Here you go folks:

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

So you want to be a pedaling pastor, but don't have a bike (yet)...

On March 15th, Church on the Move: A Practical Guide for Ministry in the Community was released by Judson Press.  Since then the book has sold about 900 copies.  Since then I have done a few podcast interviews, couple of radio interviews, a Q&A with pastors, a webinar, and adapted some portions of the book for journal and online publications.  

The most often asked question is what kind of bike do I recommend or how do I get started?

First off you do not need a "special bike" any bike will do AND you do not need any "special clothing" your regular clothes will do just fine (you've got a few months before you start thinking about winter biking necessities).  

Second, don't buy a bike; well, don't buy a bike just yet. 

I recommend these five steps.

1. Watch this YouTube video from Shifter.

2. Listen to this podcast series: The Plain Bicycle Project.

3.  If your city has a bikeshare program, check it out.  More than likely they will also have e-bikes to try out.  I would do this for a week at least.  Why?  You'll get a feel for the kind of riding you will be doing for work.  You'll get to see a wide variety of bikes and styles out there.  And you'll get to talk with other people about their bikes: upright, cargo, e-bikes, all-road, & etc.

4. Find a popular bicycling area near where you live and plop down for an hour.  Go there one Friday morning with a camp chair and a cup of coffee and a notebook.  See what kind of bikes pass by.  What bikes do you like?  Who is dressed like you will be dressed for work?  What kind of bike are they riding?  

5.  Go to several bike shops and try out all kinds of bikes.  Don't worry about the price, there are creative finance options I'll talk about next post.  

Take your time.  Give yourself a month.  Most people get in a hurry and buy the wrong kind of bike.  You want to love your bike, you want to have trouble sleeping because you are so excited to ride it the next day to work, to the park, on the trail for a long ride, & etc.  

Friday, January 21, 2022

Bike Commuting Reports: How Did They Come About

While reading Katherine Kayhoe's book Saving Us: A Climate Scientist's Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World I took my time with chapter seven, The Guilt Complex.  When I'm in a conversation about walking, bicycling, or taking public transit I often sense guilt arising in my conversation partner.  And I quickly try assuage their guilt with, "I have a van, my wife and I drive it all the time."  In all honesty, the last thing I want to do as a religious leader is make people feel guilty (I had enough of that in my early religious experiences).  

Then I read chapter seven!

In chapter seven I read this sentence, "Peer pressure is effective when there is a viable alternative."  Rather than try to take on the guilt someone else experiences because of my transit choices, provide them instead with viable transit alternatives. This seems so simple, but it was a practice I had never considered.  

In the Twin Cities walking, bicycling and taking public transit are viable alternatives.  For every situation and destination?  Nope.  But for a lot of situations and destinations: Yes.  And yet I never invite others to explore these viable alternatives, unless they specifically ask me about them.  

The morning after finishing Hayhoe's book I sat at the table, drinking coffee and listening to Cathy Wurzer give the traffic report on MPR, "there's a car fire on 35E; a semi has jackknifed; it's slow going for everyone."  Then a fully caffeinated💡 emerged: what if MPR provided bike, walking, transit stop conditions too?  So I tweeted Cathy Wurzer:
I was blown away by both her generosity and the response on twitter.  For the record:  my normal nerdy preacher/biking tweets get one or two likes.  

The goal was two-fold: One, 'normalize' walking, bicycling, and taking public transit as transportation.  I know from my traversing all over the Twin Cities that many people walk, bike, and take public transit for work, for school, for leisure, to shop.  People get around more than just by automobile:  walkers, bicyclists and public transiters are traffic too.  The report it normalizes these forms of transit too.  Two, it shows that there are viable alternatives to the automobile in the Twin Cities, even when it is -10°.  And a little lagniappe: people enjoy them!

Kudos to Cathy Wurzer and MPR News for be open and willing to reading the bike lane reports.  

Postscript:  Since the reports started airing my twitter followers has increased exponentially, so I thought I ought to share a little about myself in the form of two pictures.  

In my mind this is how I picture myself as the pedaling pastor (that's Canon Rev. Sidney Chambers, priest/detective on the PBS show Grantchester).

and here is what it is really like to be the pedaling pastor as I park my bike outside of Judson Church:

Sunday, January 2, 2022

Some Thoughts on WV and Sen. Manchin

This article first appeared in the Star Tribune, Jan. 1, 2022 as a Commentary

Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., has officially stated his opposition to President Joe Biden's Build Back Better plan. His opposition opened the floodgate for the usual vitriolic stereotypes against Appalachians, best expressed by Bette Midler when she tweeted: "He [Sen. Manchin] wants us all to be just like his state, West Virginia. Poor, illiterate and strung out."

I haven't lived in my home state of West Virginia since 2002. But every time someone asks me where I'm from (apparently, I still have an accent) and I tell them, I can see the same reaction expressed by Midler.

Nevertheless, I am proud of my West Virginia heritage, my love of Tudor's Biscuit World restaurants. I cheer for any sports team or athlete or cultural figure from West Virginia (from Kathy Mattea to Bill Withers, from Katherine Johnson Day to John Nash, from Randy Moss to Renee Montgomery).

America has a long history of extracting resources from Appalachia, not only coal, gas and wood, but men for wars. America loves to take from West Virginia and Appalachia but rarely gives back in the form of investment, love or respect.

True, West Virginia receives more from the federal government than it pays in taxes, but it's nowhere near enough to reverse the decades of neglect and underinvestment. And yet, West Virginia may provide the way to Build Back Better for living in a climate-changed world — with or without the support of Manchin.

Several years ago Bill McKibben spoke at the University of Minnesota as part of his "Do the Math" environmental justice tour. Near the beginning he said, "We don't need any more institutions too big to fail, we need communities so small they'll succeed."

Everywhere along my path of life — from Richmond, Va., to Rochester, N.Y., to Lincoln, R.I., to New Orleans, Los Angeles and Minneapolis, I have met West Virginian expats like me. And when I ask them what they miss most they all say, "the people."

We don't miss the xenophobia and homophobia, the abuse and addiction, the racism and misogyny that forced many of us to flee. But we miss the people, the hospitality, the smallness, the known-ness.

In every place I've lived outside of West Virginia, it is the rare opportunity when someone has invited me to their homes for dinner, onto their front porch for conversation or into their garage for a beer. It wasn't like that in West Virginia, and still isn't when we travel back. Growing up in my hometown of St. Albans I knew my neighbors and they knew me. I was often in the homes of my football coach, my Sunday school teacher, the ancient chair of the deacon board, and all of my friends and all of my neighbors.

I've lived for nine years in Minneapolis and I still do not even know most of the people on my block.

How can we ever move forward as a nation in a climate-changed world if we don't even know our neighbors? How can we be there for one another during climate, social and cultural catastrophes that are sure to come if we don't even know who to care for?

We had a glimpse of a different possibility during the first phase of closings and lockdowns during the pandemic. Overnight Americans stopped flying, worked from home and started cooking. It seemed everyone was making a sourdough starter or growing vegetables. Neighbors began talking to neighbors because they couldn't talk to anyone else.

I experienced this even more acutely outside of the building where the funeral for George Floyd took place. In the midst of public lamentation a Somali family passed out sambusas, white students from North Dakota drove a truck full of bottled water to give away, and a family from Venezuela handed out Popsicles from their cooler. As people sobbed, hugs were exchanged; as people screamed with righteous indignation, ears were listening.

It was the closest I had felt to West Virginia hospitality in years, but then it quickly faded.

Here we are at this moment acting as if the balance and future of the world depends on Sen. Manchin's vote of approval. We've ceded too much power to one man. We've turned him into an institution too big to fail.

What we need are communities so small we'll succeed. We can Build Back Better, West Virginia-style this holiday season, by investing our time and our attention in getting to know our neighbors, building social trust.

The naysayers will complain, "We haven't got time for that kind of slow work." But what good is a perfect plan if promoted by ignorant fools?

The slow work of community is the kind of work West Virginia has been giving witness to since June 20, 1863, when it became a separate state, rejecting slavery and secession during the Civil War.

Maybe now America will hold hands with West Virginia and Appalachia, not simply extract wealth from it and make fun of it.

All to say, we can build back better without Sen. Manchin's vote.