Pinewood Derby, Dark Tribe and Tigger

tigger_06176The guy in the Tigger suit walked up and down the street blowing a whistle.  As he went he  garnered high fives and was frequently stopped for selfies.   My own costume was not as elaborate and was mercifully much cooler than the plush fur the erstwhile Tigger had to endure.  However I received almost as many greetings.  Better yet I was offered more beers and with them invitations to stop and talk with the revelers.

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Such was my annual pilgrimage at the Manayunk Bike Race this past June.   Each year bike raceI head out in my clericals with no other purpose than to mingle with the crowd.  Over the years the event has become a little less rowdy and, I am thankful to say, it is becoming easier to find decent beer at the average house party.  Above and beyond this I have to say that 2014 yielded some rather unique encounters.

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The first started out in the usual way.  As I walked down Manayunk Avenue I was stopped by the perpetual question, “Are you really a priest?”  Yet my answer of, “Yes” generated an unusual reply.  On hearing that I was indeed clergy the young man grinned and said proudly, “Well I’m an atheist!”  His abashed friends scolded him, going so far as to smack him upside the head.  Yet I didn’t flinch or admonish as I am sure he hoped I would.  Instead I asked him what he believed in.  Enthusiastically he told me that he was, “Dark Tribe” which was a term I had never heard before.  So I asked him to explain.  I imagine the alcohol impacted his ability to explain this philosophy which seemed to be a combination of nihilism and anarchism (I am not sure how wide spread it actually is since there is no Wikipedia entry.  As best I can tell it has its origins in video games).  But his coherence, or lack of the same did not change the fact that this was an interesting and engaging start to my afternoon.  After chatting more with him and his friends I thanked them for the beer and went on my way.

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My next stop took me off the race course down to meet friends at the Old Eagle.  The day featured a special appearance from Yards.  But there was more than just beer specials because they brought along their pinewood derby racing set.   After a while people got bored racing just the cars and started to construct their own racers out of hotdogs and who knows what else.  But what made the event even more enjoyable was the guys from the brewery who included some of the members of their own Yeast Factory band which plays at the now annual Band of Brewers event here in Philly.  It was a pleasant change to sip a cask pour of their IPA and discuss metal all the while enjoying the childhood pleasures of pine wood derby.

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Bike Race 2Yet as much as I would have liked to while away my afternoon that was not strictly why I was out and about.  My job was to challenge, surprise and engage in the name of God.  As I hiked back up the race course, I chatted and waved until I had a conversation interrupted by a young woman who quizzed me about Hinduism.  She wanted to know what I knew about that religion.  When I confessed that I only knew a little she told me that she was Hindu and that I should go and learn more about it.  I asked her to explain to me what she thought I should know but she seemed to lose interest now that her confrontational mission had been accomplished.

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It is hard to have these kind of encounters at church.  Yet what I found was that almost everyone I talked to, including the “Dark Tribe” guy and the Hindu gal was in fact willing to, or even longing to connect with the kind of meaning and purpose that comes as part of organized religion.  What we in the Church need to realize is that they are not going to come to us.  If we are going to connect with them we have to go to where they are.  Thank goodness I don’t have to dress like Tigger to do it.

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One thought on “Pinewood Derby, Dark Tribe and Tigger

  1. Interesting as always. I’ve encountered the confrontational incidents too, and I just try to talk. It’s not always easy, but it always leaves me feeling stronger in faith through being challenged.

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