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...