An historic peace church in the heart of Elgin

All Things New…

notes from Pastor Katie ~ July, 2018

A Dialogue with our Bike-riding Pastor

I've continued to receive questions and concerns as well as affirmation about my using a bicycle as my main form of transportation. I am so grateful for your ongoing dialogue with me as your pastor, especially when you have a question or a concern about something because I know that can require courage to speak about. To that end, I thought I might address here a few questions I have heard for all of our benefit. If you have more questions and want to be in more conversation, I would absolutely encourage you to speak with me. I believe our questions are vital to continued conversation, relationship building, and ministry together.

Q: How do you generally get around, Pastor Katie?  

I continue to use a bicycle as my main form of transportation. I have been in clear communication with the personnel committee about how I will fulfill the responsibilities of my pastorate while favoring this mode of transportation. I have been pleasantly surprised by how many pastoral care visits I can make by bicycle. For example, I often bike to local residents’ homes, Rosewood, Sherman West Court, St. Joseph Hospital, and even Sherman Hospital. The last I prefer to pair with a bus trip. I am grateful for the PACE bus accommodations for transporting bicycles, which greatly improves my range of multi-modal travel.

Q: Do you feel like you're wasting a lot more time in transit because of that?

While traveling by bicycle does take more time in the short term, in the long term, I consider it a saver of time as I decompress, exercise, and process the previous hour’s events in preparation for the next, so that I can be more present, efficient, and effective. My average trips take less than 20 minutes and probably take 5-10 minutes longer by bike than by car.

Q: Aren't there times when a bicycle is just not the right tool for the job?

There are certainly times when the most appropriate transportation tool is a car. In this case, the options I employ are using Lyft (a ride-hailing service), renting a car from Enterprise (who picks you up), biking home to retrieve my own car, carpooling, or using my own car as my primary transportation for the day. I have calculated that in the case of an emergency the average time it takes for Lyft to arrive at my location would be no longer than the amount of time it would take me to safely collect myself and prepare to travel (5 to 15 minutes). And, even though I love my bicycle, I can't deny that I sometimes enjoy a quiet car ride through the countrysides on the way to visit someone who lives out of town.

Q: Weren't you going to sell your car, Pastor Katie?

I had considered selling my car as I used it almost chiefly for fulfilling my pastoral duties and I saw that I could make multi-modal transportation, ride-hailing, and car renting work for me at a lower cost. I have paused that decision as I continue to weigh the cost to my convenience and stress level. The goal of shifting my transportation choices is multi-faceted but if one goal is improved health, I do not believe inconvenience and stress are factors that can be ignored.

Q: Are there benefits for the church of having a bike-riding pastor?  

Because I ride a bicycle most places, I have also met a lot of people I would not otherwise have the opportunity to meet. For example, at the June 9 Soup Kettle a number of the clients and I were already familiar to each other through our street interactions. Sharing this mode of transportation gave us a shared interest. My (still emerging) organizing work for transit justice has also introduced me to many other folks in the community, some of whom have local leadership positions, others of whom have a different experience, race, or economic make-up than my own, and some of whom had never heard of the Church of the Brethren before. Folks have indeed darkened the door of Highland Avenue Church because they ride bicycles with my husband and me. Now, it’s not necessarily my intention to use my bicycle work as an outreach tool, but I do believe making one-to-one relationships is as good for organizing communities as it is for growing churches. And I do wonder if down the road my transit justice work will align with Highland Avenue’s historic and ongoing commitment to continuing the work of Jesus by addressing the social ills of poverty, racism, and militarism. At this point however, I am thinking of my time spent working for transit justice as my own personal time and not part of fulfilling my pastoral responsibilities.

Q: But is it really safe?    

I realize that my safety is an ongoing concern for at least several in the congregation. Since we live in a world built for the car to be our primary transportation choice and in which we normalize traffic deaths in car crashes, I can understand why this would be the case. I can understand why the idea of a car-bicycle collision would give people chills. The physics of that scenario are not lost on me. Indeed, it has taken me a ten-year journey to become a comfortable on street (most of the time) bike commuter. At first, I was very intimidated by car traffic to the point that I would not ride on the street. Now, I am still appropriately respectful of car traffic but no longer let the fear of a collision stop me from riding. On the contrary, I am now much more leery of driving a two-ton vehicle at high speeds down a highway, no longer normalizing the kind of damage that I can incur on myself and others. It is not my intention to worry my congregants though. Indeed, if I could I would reassure each and every one that my choices are as appropriate for me as their choices are for them, given my constellation of personal factors. However, I know that I cannot control the feelings of others. What I can do is welcome further conversation and continue to listen with care, respect, and compassion.

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Sunday School Classes are not held during the summer months but will resume in September.

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