Wednesday, January 25, 2006

First Thoughts on Louisiana

Last week I traveled 15 hours (17 hours with the rain) to New Iberia, Louisiana, a small town in the southwest part of the state. I was with a group of fellow seminary students and a few people from a United Methodist church, of which one of us students was the pastor. There's a lot I could and want to say about this trip, but for now I'm going to be brief about some of my reflections on the personal dynamics of this trip.

I thought it was very interesting the way groups seemed to separate out from among the 13 of us who made the trip. For the most part, the lines were drawn between seminary students and church members, but the lines didn't stay rigid by any means. A couple of things came up for me as the week progressed:
1. Racial divisions - the area we were working in was a small rural African American town, but we were a group of white people (except for one of the students, who was also African American). I wonder how much race played into the ways we related (and I'm sure that they did, but nobody is comfortable pointing it out or talking about it).
2. Assumptions about people in seminary - some people were surprised to see us seminary students talking about our churches the same way other people talk about their jobs - complaining about individual people, committee meetings, finances, etc. We also talked about - gasp! - drinking alcohol and homosexuality in the church. This shocked some people and I understand that clergy, and people assumed to be on the way to becoming clergy (although I'm not) are held to a higher level of accountability, but why don't people understand that we're human and still live and act like everyone else?!?!?
3. Generation gaps - I don't know how much age played into things, but there was a group of college students staying in the same housing as we were and there were some hard feelings between groups around bed time and wake up time. Younger people wanted to stay up later and get up later, while adults could be heard grumbling about how they couldn't get to sleep. We weren't there long enough to really see how these things could have played out, but it was interesting to watch people's reactions to the various situations. Some of the younger seminarians were more comfortable hanging out with the college students, and the older adults, whether with our group or chaperones from the other, all seemed to get along ok. It was hard for me to think that I was one of the older people in the room yet I felt like I understood the younger people better.

More thoughts on the trip and hurricane damage in the next piece...

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Olympics madness has begun

I promise this will be brief - I have way too much to do today. I've been watching some tv this weekend - football playoff games (disappointed that the Patriots flubbed against Denver and that Pittsburgh somehow beat Indy) and ice skating mainly. This is the first time I'm watching skating with the new scoring system, and while I'm not familiar with it yet, it seems to be fine, although listening to the commentators, you'd think it was some elaborate algebra equation or something! Still the skating is always fun to watch, and now that the US has the champions chosen, we all know who is going to the Olympics (in Turin, Italy as we Americans call it, or Torino as everyone else seems to call it). I find it interesting that Michelle Kwan didn't skate in the championships and yet is still named to the Olympic team. I LOVE her skating - don't get me wrong - but I don't think it's fair that she's too injured to skate this week but will be fine to skate in the Olympics, taking away the spot of the girl who got 3rd place at the National Championships (who, incidentally, was Emily Hughes, Sara Hughes' sister). Ice skating is one of a select few sports where the Olympic team selection provides an option for petitioning the judges without doing the national competition, and I wonder why. I think Michelle, if she is healthy, will do a wonderful job and I'd love to see her go out with an Olympic gold, but am not sure I would find it fair if I were Emily.

NBC has been airing their ads for the Olympics for about a month now I think (since the Christmas hype died down) but they don't start for another few weeks. I think the idea of an international competition that isn't tied to ammunition is nice to see, but are we perpetuating some of the animosity bewteen nations? Ideally, I think we should have some kind of global community, peace and healthy relationships - the kingdom (sic) of God, if you will. If we ever reach that, is there a place for the Olympics?

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Going to Louisiana

Well, it's been a long week. I just got done taking my January term class on United Methodist history - a good class for the most part. We did a lot of small group work - and my group was the BEST!! (I wonder if it had to do with the fact that we were the only group made up of all women?!?) No idea what kind of grade I'm going to get on the test though - it was only supposed to take us an hour, but I spent 1 hr and 40 minutes and felt like I rushed through! Good thing there's a concept of grace!

I've spoken with some people who have read or at least looked at my blog, and I admit that I'm new to this and don't really have a clue what to do with this new outlet for my thoughts, but I've heard repeatedly to make entries shorter, so that's my goal. If you have any other suggestions, topics you'd like to hear me perspective on, or whatever, please let me know.

It's now Saturday and I'm at work in the seminary library. Course of Study is here this weekend, so there are actually people in on a Saturday morning, which is nice. But I'm focused more on next week when I travel to Louisiana for a VIM trip being sponsored by the seminary. I'm excited about going - anything to be involved and feel a part of the solution rather than a mere spectator. There's so much work that needs to be done, whether demolition, construction, or just talking with people who have been affected. There's a group of 14 people - some from seminary and some from a local congregation where the pastor is a recent Saint Paul graduate. Now, I'll be honest - this particular student and I are known to be from opposite ends of the theological spectrum, and for that reason I have talked a couple of other people into going - people that I feel are "like minded" as myself. I'm not looking for debates or expecting any confrontations, but it's nice to know you have friends around anyway. It's a very mixed group of people going - ages, backgrounds, theologies, etc so there's a lot of potential - good and bad. One interesting thing will be that we are an entirely white group (or European American, if you prefer) traveling to an area of Louisiana that is African American. I'm really hoping that this doesn't become some kind of racial benevolence situation - but I'm also not sure how it can't be. Just my musings as I get ready to go. You'll hear more about it when I get back. Thanks for reading...