Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Driven by Grace

The Messenger
Grace Episcopal Church, Madison NJ
January 2008

Driven by Grace

Many of you know that before moving to Madison at the end of August Sue and I had lived nearly our entire lives in Jersey City. So, naturally, people here at Grace as well as back home in Jersey City have been asking how the adjustment to suburban living has been going. Considering how long we lived in the city, I am amazed at how easily we have settled into our new environment.

Certainly there have been adjustments. Obviously life on Surrey Lane is a whole lot quieter than the cacophony that surrounded us back on Highland Avenue. The city is bathed in the glow of artificial light, so it took some time to get used to the real darkness at night. But, it sure is wonderful to see so many stars in the sky on these clear crisp winter nights. Our cat Noelle was predictably freaked out by the move but she has created a new routine and has quickly grown to love – and in fact very often yearn for – the screened-in porch.

In reality there is quite a bit about Madison that feels very familiar. I am grateful to live in a town that has a diner like the Nautilus. From the start I felt right at home during our weekly Men’s Breakfast at the Bagel Chateau. And right next door is Garden State News – not much different from many similar newsstands back in Jersey City. Sue and I enjoy eating out and we have managed to find reasonable facsimiles for most of our favorite places in Hudson County.

There is one aspect of suburban life that has been more difficult for me – the need to drive just about everywhere. Living in the city for the first ten years of our marriage, Sue and I were able to get by very easily with just one car. Occasionally there was some conflict that we had to negotiate, but usually one car was sufficient. In fact, considering how scarce parking was in our neighborhood, having a second car would have been a major headache.

Fortunately we lived within walking distance of a PATH station and several bus lines, so getting around was pretty easy. And, my almost daily walks to the station provided me with a fair amount of exercise. Once we knew we were moving to Madison we understood that we would have to buy a second car. So now I spend a good bit of time scooting around in my car – which I don’t mind too much, except that my expanding waistline is telling me I need to find a new form of exercise.

But I have become aware of how crucial the ability to drive is for people who live in our community. So much of our independence and quality of life is connected to our ability to take care of seemingly simple everyday tasks – tasks that become much more challenging without access to a car.

Here at Grace Church we have a number of parishioners who very much wish that they could come to church more regularly but cannot because they do not have a ride. Although we try to make as many pastoral visits as possible, the truth is there is just no substitute for being gathered with the rest of the community to hear the Word of God and to receive Christ’s Body and Blood. So, to try to meet this important need, we are beginning a new program called “Driven by Grace” which will connect parishioners who have transportation with those who do not.

The plan is simple. If you are interested in providing this service all you need to do is call or email me. Let me know which Sunday service you attend and if there are any upcoming Sundays that you will not be in church. On the other hand, if you are interested in getting a ride to church please give me a call and let me know which service you would prefer to attend.

Hester Wharton and I will work to connect drivers with passengers. We hope to begin on Sunday, February 3. As always with something new, “Driven by Grace” will be a work in progress. But with a bit of generosity and some logistical work more of us will be able to fully participate in our Christian community. That seems like a great way to start a new year!