Yesterday at noon I boarded a train at Boston's South Station and began the first leg of my almost 2 month journey. The train was fairly crowded but we chugged right along and arrived in Albany-Rensselaer almost an hour early. This left me some time to go explore Rensselaer and stretch my legs. Just as I was coming to the conclusion that the only thing to note about Rensselaer was that there was nothing to note about Renselaer, I came upon this sign:
I'm not sure what it is, but it certainly stuck out in the midst of the town.
I got back to the train station and discovered that the train to Syracuse was going to be late because it was running late getting in from New York. When it finally arrived, we still had to wait around for them to restock before the train went on. My train is the one between the platform and the other train on the far side:
Now does anyone notice anything wrong with this picture? Here they've built a beautiful train platform and no tracks. Tracks on the other side but not this side. Go figure.
The train arrived in Syracuse about 35 minutes late. I was met at the train by my mentor, teach and friend, the Rev. Dr. Allison Stokes. Allison was my chaplain at Ithaca College and I wanted to visit her partly just to catch up and partly seeking her wisdom as I am becoming a University Chaplain at Boston University. Allison is an old hand at being a chaplain, having served at Yale, Vassar and Ithaca College. She's full of wisdom and insight and it is a privilege to have her as resource, mentor and friend as I move into this new endeavor. Allison is working on an endeavor of her own. She is the founding director of the Women's Interfaith Institute which is based in Seneca Falls, NY, the birthplace of women's rights and a landmark in the development of human rights. Allison's work is incredibly important in the current historical moment, located at the intersection of ministry, scholarship and activism. I am proud to have served as an intern for the institute during the summer following my junior year of college.
During the day today Allison and I caught up on our lives, talked about chaplaincy and the institute, and assessed the state of the universe and the place of humanity in it. Not bad for a day's work!
In the evening I took a walk through Seneca Falls. It is truly a fascinating town comprised of a somewhat surprising combination of people. There are people who are more country-folk; there are college students and families; there are the more sophisticated folks who associate with the historical ethos of Seneca Falls and women's rights; and there are the feminist-activists who continue to embody the work advocating for women's rights and ways of being in the world. This diversity plays out in strange ways as you walk down main street and notice that some of the shops are more run down, some have been fixed up while maintaining the old-town feel, and some are quite modern. Clearly, someone had a sense of humor as the center for alcoholism is right next to the VFW. All together, it makes for a charming town where people are friendly and say hello as they pass on the street.
Tonight Allison showed me the powerpoint presentation she put together about the institute and its work. I gave her a few pointers to sharpen the presentation, but mostly I was astonished to note that she had pulled together 70 slides of text and photos from a year's worth of activity and work at the institute without ever giving a sense of redundancy or over-elaboration. There is so much going on at the institute and so much more they are planning to do that I can hardly believe the whole thing started merely four years ago.
Enough for today. More tomorrow!