I was a support driver for a RAGBRAI group the last week of July. Through a complicated turn of events that don’t matter here, the group I drove for were folk I didn’t know at the beginning of the week. By the end of the week we were friends.
This experience – both in its micro-aspects (this small group for which I drove) and its macro-aspects (the whole of the RAGBRAI enterprise) – was a powerful illustration of something that people of faith know deeply and with certainty – that deep and purposeful connection is essential to meaningful life.
In certain kinds of human enterprise, the concept of “logistics” is highly developed. RAGBRAI is a complicated enterprise – an apparently weeklong experience that only works because of years of accumulated experience and many months of practical planning and preparation and conversation and attention to amazing quantities of detail. RAGBRAI only seems to be a week long. In fact, it takes months of planning and work to accomplish. It is an event that is steeped throughout with “logistics.” Until you actually do it, you can’t really imagine how complicated and multi-faceted it really is. There are routes to be planned (two of them, of course – one for riders and an entirely separate one for support vehicles) food of all sorts to be supplied, sleeping accommodations arranged, showers, entertainment – both acts and venues – delivery of baggage, street closings, provision of emergency services…all this and more has to be attended to in advance. To an outsider it might seem as if it just happens….but of course it doesn’t.
Logistics – the everyday “science” of making things work together for a desired outcome – is a way of speaking of community – of interconnectedness. RAGBRAI is a powerful and clear example of what it takes for any human community to significantly advance a common goal.
Any reasonably fit individual could successfully organize his or her own bicycle ride across Iowa. But for almost 20,000 individuals to do it all at once is impossible without profound cooperation, meticulous planning, deference to the other, and a willingness to trust folk one has never and will never meet.
There are many ways to understand the importance of faith. One of them is as a coordinated way to advance the common good. That’s why churches support food pantries and advocate for social buy strattera online pharmacy change. It’s why we care for the hurting and look to prevent the imposition of hurt in the first place. It’s why concepts as seemingly disparate as sin and grace and social justice are all essential to us.
Another way to look at it is to face our own temptation to going-it-alone and to understand that at least part of the reason Christianity isn’t just about “me and Jesus” is that community is part and parcel of our faith. The fact is, New Testament faith is always Jesus and me….and the church! It’s fundamentally communal. From the ineffability of the Trinity to a whole denomination, to a local church to a Bible study group in that church – this faith we claim is all about groups and about community. It’s about caring for neighbor as well as for ourselves.
This is partly why the proposal to share a staff with the Nebraska and South Dakota Conferences is so exciting to me! It’s another example of figuring out how to cooperate with the other for the good of all. Could we (the Iowa Conference) continue to go it alone? Of course we could….but not for very long. In fact, our long-term capacity to support congregations in the manner to which we are accustomed is assuredly unsustainable. The reality is this: our neighbors could benefit from our partnership right now and it seems a privilege to respond to that need – especially since doing so is likely to be in our own long-term benefit as well as theirs.
Logistics, it seems to me, is a way of speaking of coordinated interconnectedness. RAGBRAI has reinforced for me the value and essential need for real, on-the-ground cooperation with neighbor.
The group I drove for during RAGBRAI was small – as few as 3 cyclists on some days, as many as 6 on others. They were a real entity – entire to themselves in many ways – and nonetheless an integral part of something much bigger and deeply dependent on that much bigger thing. Just like the Iowa Conference will continue to be a real entity, entire to itself and yet at the same part of something bigger and more efficacious in cooperation with neighbors.
I can’t wait to see how it turns out!!
With hope and anticipation,
The UCC in Iowa