Day 6 Friday, July 15 Dayville to Austin Junction, OR 62 miles
I am writing this from the home of an interesting, warm, and obviously welcoming couple a few miles east of Prairie City. I had set up my tent behind the cafe/store in a place reserved for cyclists on the Transamerica Route and was just getting ready to order dinner. This couple came in and I overheard them sharing with Christy, the friendly owner at Austin Junction, about converting an old Methodist Church building into a community center/personal enrichment center. I had taken a picture of this old white church set against the backdrop of what I believe are the Blue Mountains. My ears perked up at it’s mention, we immediately jumped right into a conversation, and I picked up my stuff and joined them for dinner. Next thing I knew Norm and Melanie were inviting me to stay the night at their place.
I was told this would happen on the bike journey. The bike somehow loosens the defenses of people, attracts genuine and sometimes puzzled interest, and has a way of speeding up the “let’s be friends” process. As we entered their home Melanie said, “Mi casa, su casa!”
The conversation that got this all started was about a church that had closed prompting a community organization to decide how it could best serve the community. We had an interesting discussion. The committee is wrestling with whether to strip the building of religious symbols if it is truly to become a community center and not a church. On the other hand, there is some interest in retaining the religious spirit of the building, partly because it has been an important part of the community; partly because they think a true community center should be open having religious or spiritual activities.
I am especially interested in this as the lines separating the religious from the profane or the sacred from the secular are becoming more and more blurred. What exactly constitutes the religious aspect of a church? The worship, the game nights, the feeding of the hungry, the sponsoring of a community talent show, a quilting circle? And if a community center decides to teach yoga, meditation practices, or sacred dance have they crossed over into the religious territory? More stuff to think about as the relationship between church and community continues to shift.
The cycling time has been rich with reflection and today was especially so. I continued to mull over my earlier post about the Christian “identity” thing that I wrote earlier in the morning. As a pastor I want to be responsible about expressing my faith in a way that serves to deepen other’s faith, not undermine it. Yet, also as pastor I want to honestly and openly express my doubts and my uncertainties in a way that validates the same doubts of others. As I rode I simply reminded myself that I have for a long time felt called to start the conversation. If my openness can get all of us talking about our faith, our spiritual values, and our religious commitments I will have felt like I have honored what God wants me to do. Nonetheless, as much as I enjoyed the riding today, my mind was working overtime rehashing that earlier post.
I have now worked my way through the numerous small passes of Central Oregon. As I crested the summit today of Dixie Butte Pass at 5187 (give or take 20 feet!) I began the slide down toward the Oregon-Idaho border. Until I get to Boise (3 days probably) the terrain should be considerably flatter. I had a loose plan of riding six days, resting one. I really want to get to Boise to take a day to take care of some logistical issues–need to replace tent poles(maybe whole tent!), buy more propane for my backpacking stove, have my glasses fixed, and solve an internet problem (that’s why the posts are coming in waves!). My body, however, is saying it’s time to let the muscles recover and heal.
As with everything on this trip I’ll just let it unfold. I had no idea I’d be staying with Norm and Melanie tonight. Plan tomorrow–ride easily and as long as it feels comfortable. Let the body catch up to the hard miles of recent days. Plan subject to change at a moment’s notice!