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Why Some Pastors Are Taking Up Bicycles to Better Love Their Cities
A BEEPING, BUSTLING Boston intersection is a strange place for a sanctuary, but on a blustery August evening, the corner of Beacon Street and Massachusetts Avenue becomes just that.
“This is holy ground,” says Rev. Laura Everett to several dozen people who form a semicircle around her and a lily-white bicycle chained to a concrete pole. Flowers overflow from the bike’s front basket.
“We’re here to dedicate this ghost bike,” Everett tells the growing crowd, “a visible sign of an invisible reality—that we’re fragile humans, and we’re only here for a little while.”
Everett, clad in religious vestments, and the crowd around her, wearing bike helmets and messenger bags, are installing the “ghost bike” as a memorial to 38-year-old cyclist Anita Kurmann, a beloved endocrine surgeon in the city, who was killed 13 days earlier when she was struck by a flatbed truck. A cyclist reads Psalm 23 into a megaphone and another reads a letter from Kurmann’s lab supervisor before Everett leads the congregation in a simple call-and-response prayer.
“When we choose to take a bike instead of a car,” Everett prays, “when we choose to listen instead of shout, when we choose advocacy instead of complacency, when we choose to get curious instead of cranky, when we choose to heal a broken world instead of cursing it, when we travel past this spot, remind us of Anita.”
“Holy One,” the crowd responds, some with eyes clenched shut, “hear our prayer.”
It’s a remarkable thing to witness (even on YouTube months later): a Christian minister leading a wildly diverse community of cyclists in prayer and lament for a fallen sister, and for each other. Her bike ministry extends beyond presiding over ghost bike ceremonies, though. Everett—a United Church of Christ minister and executive director of the Massachusetts Council of Churches—leads a “blessing of the bikes” each May where she prays for cyclists’ safety and anoints dozens of sets of wheels with chain lube. And as a four-season commuter cyclist herself who’s officiated three ghost bike ceremonies for fellow cyclists in a little over a year, she’s become a fierce advocate for transportation infrastructure that respects and protects cyclists.
Hellfire from Above
ON THE AFTERNOON of Dec. 14, President Obama stood in the White House press room, tears in his eyes, and spoke for many Americans who had watched the terrifying events unfolding in Newtown, Conn.
“I know there’s not a parent in America who doesn’t feel the same overwhelming grief that I do. The majority of those who died today were children: beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old,” he said. “They had their entire lives ahead of them—birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.”
A little more than a month later, on Jan. 23, a pilotless aircraft owned and operated by the United States and controlled remotely by an individual on U.S. soil launched a targeted attack on the riders of two motorcycles in Yemen. The attack missed its target. It hit the house of Abdu Mohammed al-Jarrah instead, killing several people—including al-Jarrah’s two children.
There was no press conference for the al-Jarrah children.
It was President Obama himself, in fact, after his inauguration in 2009, who authorized an expansion of the U.S. drone program launched under George W. Bush. The “Authorization for Use of Military Force,” passed shortly after Sept. 11, gives the president broad authority to use force against those involved in the 9/11 attacks or those who harbor them. Drones have become President Obama’s weapon of choice.
Bringing the Camp Spirit Back Home
I was not one of the 1,500 who attended the inaugural Wild Goose Festival in Shakori Hills, North Carolina last month, but I did grow up going to Christian summer camp. What’s the connection, you ask, between a festival and summer camp? Summer camp -- like festivals and extended retreats -- is often deeply formative because it gives kids (and adult counselors, for that matter) a glimpse at a kingdom lifestyle.
Wanted: An Uncool Church of Distractions
Worship Songs for a New Generation: 'Hold On to Love'
This Advent, What Are You Waiting For?
Confronting The Powers
An interview with Walter Wink and June Keener Wink.
God is Big Enough to Take Our Doubt and Anger
Wearing My Jesus Goggles to the Boston Tea Party
The Tea Party Express -- the traveling band of conservative speakers, entertainers, and organizers -- stops in Washington, D.C., today on its nationwide effort to "vote them out of office" in the 2010 mid-term elections. Sarah Palin, one of the most galvanizing conservatives in years, has joined the Express in an attempt to bring more mainstream conservatives into its ranks.
Christians Must Find a More Christ-like Symbol than 'Crusaders'
Imagine for a minute the fallout were a Muslim high school in America to choose for its mascot "the Jihadists."
In that light, how do you think Muslims (or Jews) view Christian schools whose mascot is "the Crusaders?"
Video: Health-Care Hermeneutics with Jon Stewart
I need to find something to do until Sept. 13 or thereabouts. The Daily Show is on a three-week vacation until then. (Anyone have a good home remedy for the Stewart Shakes?) I kid.