Sunday, October 30, 2005

On Sundays Our Dogs Get Bullied and We Learn About Faucets

The past couple of Sundays in this year without a pulpit, I have been a pulpit guest. Last weekend, I drove four and a half hours North to Cookeville Tennessee, cutting through the Appalachians and into the valley-- arriving early enough with near empty roads and a gained back hour to eat a couple of eggs and half a biscuit at the town's Shoney's, stopping at K-Mart to buy mints and some safety razors, and then conducting the service for the emerging UU congregation.After exchanging pleasantries, drinking a cup of coffee, and getting more gas, I drove straight back home to catch the last hour of my women's chorus rehearsal.Next Sunday I will drive on Saturday afternon to Oxford, Mississippi, stay over, speak, and then do the six hours back. I don't mind now that I can find every National Public Radio station in the Mid-South,and have a CD player, and a reliable car.This morning, the first day of standard time and an unemployed Sunday for me, we once again took the dogs to the dog park, trying to discover where people go when they have no church, let alone a pulpit. Once again, the 10 or so humans with their twenty or so dogs were mostly thirty-something. From overhearing their conversations, several, like us, were Jewish by background.Our first few moments of entering this sanctuary: a brown expanse of dirt and a slope of old, neglected oaks, were spent settling our three dogs into the mix.Our Tibetan terrier was almost immediately set upon by a hound, whose owners were alternately embarassed and defensive. Charlie escaped and found refuge under the chair of a woman with twins, allowing me to resume my religiously sociological fieldwork as a participant observer.From the cheerful snippets I picked up, the main homily topic was finding faucets in specific and remodeling in general. Ours is an area of transition and/or gentrification, and there is apparently a lively debate going on about the relative merits of Lowe's, Home Depot, or Restoration Hardware.This and boisterous comparisons of pumpkin carving prowess filled the time in between comments about shedding fur, hot spots, and canine behavior.So far, I can determine that this is a relational space, an intentional community, with sacraments of watching, admiring, comparing,and controlling canines. Its resident theology is harder to discern.

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