In Trust and Capitol Trailways are forever linked in my mind. It's partly a strongly imprinted literal connection. For more than 10 years, I put myself on a Trailways bus every week or two for the five-hour trip to In Trust's former office in Washington, D.C. I admit, sometimes I cheated by taking the bus to Philadelphia and then switching to Amtrak, which was a hair or two more luxe.
So I alternated between two apparent extremes. On most days, I pastored in a small town where the usual concerns included basic survival. On the other days, I edited in the big city, working with schools full of lofty ideals, top-flight thought — oh, and concerns about survival, too. Sometimes I called it my "kielbasa/ cappuccino divide." The five hours each way afforded me time to think about both of my worlds — where they intersected, and where they should. It gave me time to think about how trustees agree to step out of their usual expertise for the same sorts of reasons I did — for the sake of the church and to support its varied missions.
If you spend much time on intercity buses, you'll get to know a very particular sort of community. Often marked by a shared discomfort, it also includes a sense of adventure and possibility. The bus-riding community is pretty stratified, with blue-rinsed regulars gossiping with the driver in the front and some distinctly odd, hard-core types in the back. But by the luck of seating, astonishing connections can be made.
Sometimes I was part of these connections and at other times I just eavesdropped on them. Occasionally, the whole thing began to look a bit like what we were doing at In Trust. At that time we had begun our Good Faith Governance seminar series, where folks from diverse schools were coming together and learning, to their great surprise, that despite socioeconomic, ethnic, or doctrinal differences, the challenges they faced were very much the same. And they learned that they could pray together too.
I was on one of the first buses out of Washington, D.C., on September 11, 2001. As a pastor, I was pretty intent on getting back to my people. As it happened, there was plenty of pastoral care to be done on the bus, too. An even more diverse lot than usual was there — riders who would have used different transportation under different circumstances. We were uncomfortable and overcrowded, and many were grumpy. But again, stories were shared, comfort was given, and folks departed with blessings.
Things have changed. Trailways used to offer me the choice of four buses a day to and from Washington, D.C., but now there are only two, and they leave from a terminal 12 miles from my house instead of just two blocks away — a big difference, since I don't drive. In Trust has changed too. For a while we were a cyberoffice, but we moved into new office space in Wilmington, Delaware, at about the time I became a single homeschooling mother of three kids for whom English is a second language. That's curtailed a lot of my travel.
But we're still working together for the sake of theological education. And theological education is preparing men and women who will bring the Good News to all the funny little places Trailways serves, and more besides. If we're on the bus together, we might as well enjoy the ride and get to know one another in something more than a superficial way. Along the way, perhaps we can share some stories with our fellow travelers, bless a few people, and give some comfort.