Monday, May 13, 2013

What a difference 1,500 miles make: Cambridge and FTW

What a difference 1,500 miles make!  I would have truly enjoyed my being back in the haunts of Cambridge, MA if some bug from the airless flight hadn’t caught up with me.  Cambridge was in TOTAL bloom this past week.  When we arrived it was still a little cool but the flowering trees were all out.  Redbuds and forsythia as well as tulip trees, pears were a riot of color everywhere our shuttle or taxis went.  For a bit, we couldn’t tell if it was raining or it was the fluttering of cherry blossoms.

When I was in seminary there, I didn’t take shuttles or taxis.  And as a Harvard grad, J is an inveterate T traveler.  You don’t see flowering trees on the subway!  But there is a difference in spring there and spring in DFW.  Yankee spring is short, wet and often chilly.  The flowers absolutely shout through the clouds as if to say:  “Damnit!  Summer is coming!” And they bloom all at one time.  In TX we have long springs with several weeks of color and often a month of pleasant temps before the summer comes.  This spring has been quite lovely in TX too.

Cambridge has about as much ‘Old World’ charm as you are going to get in the U.S., I think.  The tweediness of Cambridge makes it feel a bit more British than the rest of the U.S.  It is reserved as most academic worlds are, but Cambridge likes to be a bit more.  Speaking with a college-bound young Texas woman who could have gone anywhere she wanted, she  found Cambridge ‘cold’ emotionally and unwelcoming.  That is the way that most Southerners find the Yankee demeanor.  You don’t just start up a conversation with people at the bus stop as you do here in TX (that is if you can find a bus stop in TX!).  But I know Yankees to be anything but cold and uninviting. You need but go to a BoSox game or watch the Bruins in the playoffs.   They are as passionate as anyone else.   Their friendliness take a different turn:  it gives the introvert enough respect to think through things and allows the extroverts to make fools of themselves.  It is all tolerated rather than judged.  It is different than in TX where all is met with ‘niceness’ that is often rather phony or judgmental. 

The number of bicycles on the roads and at T stops is awesome.  The ‘green’ considerations are greater.
  And the progressive understanding of medical issues was certainly a relief from the money politics of TX.  I have missed that environment:  one in which the public welfare comes before all else while still giving outstanding care.  And this was only weeks after the bombings.  There was security but not officiousness and that was a relief.

Cambridge is a mecca for every language and nation.  You can’t get comfortable with YOUR way.  There are just too many people there who have other experiences for you to demand that your way is the majority.  Cambridge forces one to consider others in ways that one has never had to in the South.  And if there is any answer to world peace, it may just originate in those locales like Cambridge where a world-view is the only option one has.

There is nothing like being back in an environment like that!  It stirs up one’s thinking.  Even one day back in the ‘grade school’ of your theological training gets those old juices going.  And even while I was feeling so lousy, new ideas would come to me that I wanted to explore, to write about, and to preach about.  Don’t get me wrong.  I do love living in TX once more around my friends and family, comfortable with the customs and the ways of being.  But Cambridge does rattle my thinking cage.  It does not let me be too comfortable. 

I am so thankful for my Episcopal Divinity School training, too.  All of our Episcopal seminaries have a unique quality to them.  EDS has always been a place for scholarship, but it is scholarship with a decided world view.  We learned with a ‘hermeneutic of suspicion’ which really meant “don’t believe everything that you read” or “t’ain’t necessarily so.”  It forced us to base what we learned and what we later taught and preached to be rooted as much in good scholarship as it was rooted in our faith experience. 

Parish ministry can make a priest rather theologically lazy.  Working 70 hours a week precluded much
scholarship while I was in active ministry.  That is why most seminaries have lectures or continuing education programs for their graduates.  The seminaries gain from the experience of returning people in active parish ministry and who can stay current with what is being taught.  It has been too long an absence from Cambridge for me.  J and I need to go back more often not only to remind us of our salad days, but also prepare for what is yet to come. 

EDS has always been willing to stand on the edge both of education as well as theology. For a while EDS was considered too radical and some bishops refused to send seminarians there.   But if the Church is going into decline which many pundits are expounding, I am thankful for that training that valued standing on the edge of society to proclaim the gospel of Jesus, the itinerent rabbi from the Galilee who also stood on the edge to remind Israel of the call of the Holy One. 


Crimson Rambler said...

thank you for this, friend!

SCG said...

I like it! And you were in Cambridge while I was about 40 miles to the north of you, visiting my mom in a "skilled facility." It's true: Southerners make judgments about Yankees... just as Yankees make judgements about Southerners. And go BoSox!