Stories from our Max commuters blessing day

by Stephen Schneider
Grace Memorial Episcopal Church
Portland, Oregon

I made my way, accompanied by Mother Esme and her extraordinary animal companion Bailey, to the Lloyd Center Max stop. We were part of a summer initiative by our eastside Episcopal clergy to the morning MAX commuters. A brainchild of the Rector of St. Luke’s Parish in Gresham, The Rev. Jennifer Creswell, clergy were invited to be present at MAX stops throughout the Metropolitan area from 7– 8 am this morning to offer a blessing to those on their way to work.

This idea of blessing seemed to be a natural for Episcopal clergy since extending the blessing of God is something we do at every service, as well as on those special occasions where we bless animals (St. Francis Day) or the earth (Rogation Day).

We arrived promptly with our clerical collars and stoles. As we came near the station, we experienced a slight twinge of apprehension, not being too sure how the morning commuters would respond to seeing two clergy in their clerical garb, accompanied by a German Shepherd. As the first Max train arrived we eased our way into offering some version of a very simple blessing to those getting on or off the Max—“Blessings on your day.”

Early on, we discovered our most responsive patron. Largely drawn by the presence of Bailey, we had a wonderful conversation with Robert, an employee of a local restaurant. He exceeded our wildest expectations when he asked where we were from and said he would like to come to visit us at Grace some Sunday.

Another conversation was with a government worker, a woman well into mid-life, who expressed her anxiety—which I’m sure is widely shared—about what would happen to her if no action is taken on raising the federal debt ceiling. “I’ve got a mortgage to pay,” she said. “There is no alternate plan for us.”

As the trains came and went with increasing frequency, we waved to those seated or standing inside in the train. The riders looked at us with blank stares, although there were a few who cracked a smile.

I’m not sure what was going on in people’s minds as they saw us standing there waving and blessing, and yet what I simply can’t get out of my mind was the vacant look on so many faces.

The Book of Common Prayer invites us to pray for vocation in daily work: “that we may do the work you have given us to do in truth and beauty and for the common good.” It is a good prayer for those who make the daily commute and for all of us.

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