Critical Mass

I met with one of the Brothers today…San Diego hosts the last two monks of the order of St. Paul in the Episcopal Church. Br. Andrew and I have been meeting for awhile now to discuss my spiritual journey. I always walk away from these meetings with a sense of peace and direction, but lately there has also been a bit of dread attached. You see sometimes the brother likes to wax prophetic, and he tends to see a future with some major cataclysmic event in store that will challenge our generation. I wonder if this is the product of his advancing years, if he can’t imagine what the world will be like after he’s left it. I don’t know, but I can say this weekend gave me two sources of great hope.

I’ll talk about them reverse chronologically. On Saturday I took a group from UCSD down to Dorcas House, a new ministry of St. Paul’s Cathedral. The Children of Dorcas House’s parents are generally inmates in the La Mesa Prison in Tijuana. In Mexico, unlike in the U.S., when the head of the household goes to prison, the entire family moves in with them. The La Mesa prison living conditions are totally unsuitable for children, so several years ago a group started a home for the children whose parents are incarcerated. The kids of Dorcas House are housed, fed, and sent to school through the support of Churches in San Diego and Los Angeles. Our group goes once per quarter to visit the kids, to play soccer, do some art, dance, and to remember that our family extends beyond the borders that people try to place between us. This is a truly radical act in a country that would have us build a wall between us and our neighbor. The enthusiasm, energy, and raw love coming from the students and the kids of Dorcas house as they spent time together on Saturday gave me hope that we can learn to live in ways that are closer to the community God desires for us. I was particularly excited because a couple of the students decided to take on the planning of the next trip, and want to extend the reach of our present trips to include more immersion and engagement of border issues.

Friday night my buddy Rob and I had dinner and then were about to head to Ocean Beach to get a beer with some other friends. As we were getting in my car we heard whistles and bike bells coming down the street. We looked up to see several hundred cyclists with flashing lights cheering as they pedaled their way down 5th Ave. We jumped in the car to follow behind them and got to watch the “Critical Mass” unfold. Critical Mass is a play on words: Cyclists come together spontaneously to take over a city street and celebrate. This very action can be interpreted as a critique of a culture addicted to fuel burning vehicles. Bicycles ARE classified as vehicles and thus they are required by law to travel on roads while in the city, but road design often neglects bikes. The cyclists riding through the streets by their very presence critique a culture that depends so heavily on fossil fuels, and doesn’t think outside that addiction. As we followed along in my car (no, the irony is not lost on me that I am ranting about gas-guzzling while I was following a bunch of cyclists in MY car), I was overcome by the sheer number of people lining the streets to celebrate the bikes coming by. Maybe it’s that gas prices in California are approaching $4.00 a gallon, maybe it’s because we were passing through the liberal gay neighborhood, but it was inspiring to see so many people celebrating this “Critical Mass.” I know that on the last Friday of next month, if at all possible, I will be on my bike with a whistle.

I really have to believe that a group of cyclists and a handful of students visiting their neighbors in need can change the world. I know this is idealistic, but I follow a savior who surrounded himself with a group of crazies and proclaimed that power wasn’t to be found in military might, but in unimaginably big love. If enough of a critical mass believes in this and comes together, maybe we can avoid Br. Andrew’s scary visions of the future world. Maybe we can build the Community of God together.

Published by Mike Angell

The Rev. Mike Angell is rector of The Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion in St. Louis.

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