Audrey Green expresses our jolt as a congregation when our new minister suddenly resigned from a fairly new assignment. The announcement reminded her of riding a bumper car. However, as you read this, you will understand how she realizes our bumpy rides at Bell Street are unique and often help foster our beliefs to make this a better world for all in it. Yes, we got jolted and bumped as a congregation, but we also found the good from all we went through and are moving forward together in common cause.
by Audrey Green
I am not an amusement park person, I’m a “walking on flat surfaces in sturdy shoes” person.
Since I would shake with terror at ferris wheels, I was pressured by high school friends and later my children to at least ride the bumper cars. At least! The bumper cars!
I remember the shady carnival guy casually hanging off the back bumper of a car, saying “No bumping!”
“And don’t ever, ever, ever, get out of your car, you will be electrocuted!”
Oh, dear Lord!
My car’s pedal doesn’t work, I drive haltingly around the outside of the ghastly electrified rectangle, trying in vain to avoid the spine shaking and doubtless paralyzing “bump”.
Whether my maniacal brother, a gleeful high school classmate, or yes, one of my own dear children, it inevitably came, “Wham!”
And there I’d be, shaking, smiling gamely, nodding in false hilarity. What fun.
Lots of Bell Streeters think of this congregation, our spiritual gathering, as a safe place of acceptance and unconditional love. And it is that wonderful sanctuary. Yet, in my 15 years here, and especially this last summer, I’ve begun to understand that it’s also, along with the rest of life…bumper cars. It would be nice to think it didn’t happen, that we all just got together on Sundays and at meetings, potlucks, and picnics, gazed at each other fondly, spoke rationally about shared concerns, and “hugged it out” when the rare differences arose.
And that does happens, but then, “Wham!” And, I’ll admit, in this particular bumper car ride, I’m not always the timid soul keeping to the corners or smiling benignly while easing around other cars, nope, I have been the oblivious bumper. This past July, we all got bumped, badly. Many of us, especially those who’ve been here for years, had been feeling more comfortable and “safe” than we had in a long, long while.
We “knew” that CJ, our minister, was here for the long term, that he loved us, that he was going to lead us towards a promising future Bell Street that shone brightly in the middle distance, beckoning. Then “Wham!” He left. And he not only left unexpectedly, but with many questions unanswered. We felt not only abandoned but utterly puzzled. All we got was a giant bone-shaking jolt and the view of his back bumper as he sped away. What was that?! And many of us are still shaking, still moving delicately, checking our bones and our hearts to assess the damage. I think it’s going to take a while.
I always left the bumper cars with great relief. Shook my head in patently false regret when an excited friend or one of my children said, “Come on, let’s go again!” No, thank you.
But, of course, we can’t avoid every bump in life. Especially if we want the support, solace, and joy that comes from living in community. And Bell Street bumper cars are a bit different from those at your local amusement park, we’re not aimlessly cruising around each other, idly passing the time. We are bumping together along a road to a better understanding, to a better society, to a better world. I’ve pretty much run this bumper car metaphor off a cliff, so I’ll end by saying that this particular ride, at times jarring, frustrating, challenging, lovely, uplifting is also, in my opinion… sacred. We, sometimes with trepidation, join together because we know that what we are here for is bigger than each of us, it’s a dream, an abiding faith in what can be if we all continue to bump along together.