When Things Turn Up Where You Didn’t Expect: Old First E-pistle 07.23.21

When Things Turn Up Where You Didn’t Expect: Old First E-pistle 07.23.21

I had an experience this week, that I bet you have also had a time or two. 

I was going to pay a pastoral call on Jim and Margaret. I decided to ride my bike. Ok, maybe that’s an experience that we haven’t all had! But I had my reasons! Because the weather was nice the day before; because I hadn’t had a real bike ride (beyond my daily commute) for awhile; because after my 60th birthday, I just wanted to prove to myself I still could. 

I chose the more scenic route — along Kelly Drive, to Midvale, left on Wissahickon, right up  Chelten to Chew. I was enjoying my ride, though Midvale is steep and endless. But God gave me a biker right in front of me for the hill. This guy had to be 20 years my senior, and he just kept pedaling. I followed right along … trying to quiet my breath so the “old head” didn’t hear how winded I was! And we both made it to the top. 

Anyway, I noticed for the first time that the Catholic church on Midvale that I always thought was St. Vincent de Paul’s is not. Instead, it’s St. Bridget’s. (St. Vincent’s is on Price Street — I found it too!)   

Also, I have been to Whosoever Gospel Mission many times. But it must have always been with groups of service campers, in vans talking and I never really paid attention to where I was. I was surprised as I rode right past it on Chelton, right above the Germantown train stop on the Chestnut Hill East line.

Finally, I was close to the Smith’s and knew where I was going. So I was zigzagging on side streets to avoid traffic. When suddenly I ended up, at the end of Stafford Street, smack dab in front of the DePaul Center. It’s one of the permanent, supportive housing residences run by DePaul USA, that will provide the social services for Old First House when we get it built and inhabited. And it’s just below the Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church. 

I have visited DePaul Center two times before, both times by car with a group of Old Firsters. I knew generally that it was up Broad and to the left. But I had never realized that it was a short walk from the Smith’s. I actually thought it was closer to Woodcrest UCC up in Stenton. 

Sometimes things aren’t where you expect them to be. Or places are in different relation to one another. There’s shortcuts, and detours. Especially these days in Philly when it seems almost every road is being dug up.   

You might just think I’m bad with directions, but generally, I’m pretty good. But to place where something is, I usually need to know the context. That’s why when I am traveling, usually, I like to look out the window and see where we are going. 

Is there some great spiritual lesson in all this? Not sure. But it does occur to me that it’s awfully hard to be present when you don’t know where you are. I think I’m going to ride my bike farther more often. Sort of like walking, it’s a much better way to notice things. When we slow down, we notice more. That’s what I’ve been suggesting about in-person worship — the relative silence we have taken on for safety concerns, it actually might open us up to notice more inward, to recognize where we are, our context and how things relate one to another…. 

See you in faith, hope and love, 

Michael