Category Archives: Current Events Reflections

The Science of Sensible Sidewalks: a Response by Joseph Taber

My good friend, Joseph, wrote a response to my previous post on his blog here. Check it out and stay tuned for the conversation to continue!

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The Science of Sensible Sidewalks

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The picture above is of Douglas Hall at Presbyterian College in Clinton, South Carolina (my alma mater). While it does not have the emotional nostalgia of the historic and beloved Neville Hall, it has been on my mind as of late.

If you look closely in this photo of Douglas Hall, you will notice that a dirt path diverges from the sidewalk to travel at an angle to an unseen destination. If you were to follow that path, you would end at the side entrance of Bailey Hall, the freshmen dormitory for us PC boys. One could continue on the sidewalk to make a left-hand turn in about 30 feet to then go up some steps to enter the building but this dirt path that, I’m sure, remains to this day is the road of choice for every student. Year after year, day after day, thousands of feet ignored the sidewalk and took a different route, creating a new and improvised path that…well…just made more sense.

One day, I was walking along the sidewalk with my good friend, Joseph Taber (you can read his blog here), and this improvised dirt path came up in our conversation. We stopped. He looked at it and then back at me and said, “you know, if the school had been smart and just waited to see where we would walk, they could’ve put a sidewalk here and it would have made more sense.”

That conversation has slept dormant in my mind for the past six and a half years. But recently, it has found its way back to the surface.

The PC(USA) is in a time of transition (yes, you can call me Captain Obvious!). Many congregations differ radically from the communities they were even a few years ago. Some churches, such as my home church of First Presbyterian Church of Dalton and the one I currently serve at Silver Creek Presbyterian Church, are recovering from painful splits that have left them in a sense of disorientation and improvisation (which are not always necessarily “bad” places to be!). As is expected of communities in this situation, the temptation often is to “re-pave” the sidewalks where they previously were.

However, what if those paths no longer make sense? What if we are hastily paving sidewalks that will never be used?

I don’t pretend to have the answers. I don’t pretend to know exactly where the sidewalks need to go in this transitory time. But I do know that, as my good friend wisely suggested, it takes time to discern traffic patterns.

As I walk with churches that are enduring the harsh realities of this time of transition, I am reminded that the destination has not changed; we are still marching on to the day when Christ will return and tears and death will be no more. However, what has changed and what is changing even as you read these words are the paths that we are being called by God to use to get there!

Some paths nowadays just don’t make sense. That isn’t to say that they haven’t served us well before or that they weren’t meant to be used at that time.

But now isn’t “that” time; it’s this time. And this time calls for a new path.

But before we can get to the sensible (and faithful) path, we must first stop and see where God is directing the traffic.

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Acceptance…then love

     I was driving in my car this morning as the local NPR station kept me company amid Atlanta traffic.  An article came on that caught my attention.  The following article speaks of a classical Indian dancer who began  (what I believe can be rightly called) a ministry by teaching male inmates at a local prison how to dance.  She originally came to watch the female inmates perform but was struck by the body language of the men.  Their bodies communicated, in her words, that they were people without a future, with nothing to look forward to. She then began to teach them traditional Indian dance.  The male inmates, murderers, rapists, thieves, and the like, started to see her as a mother who loved them.
     What struck me the most about this article is the way in which the woman, Alokananda Roy, spoke of her journey with these men on the margins of Indian society.  When speaking of the affection that grew between her and the men, she simply said, “all I did was accept them.  The love came later.”
     For some reason, this phrase struck me.  Acceptance first.  Then love.
     ….I’m not sure why but I can’t get these words out of my head.  Is it possible to love without accepting?  Is it possible to accept without loving?  Does one always have to precede the other?
     Does this challenge you as much as it does me?  

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