Thursday, August 6, 2009

Sects Outdoors -- Ride Report

Sunday August 2 dawned cool and clear. Five intrepid bicyclists met at the Vera Katz statue on the waterfront to visit various outdoor worship and holy sites in Portland.

The Joy of Sects rides, from my standpoint, have several purposes --
1) to visit different churches in Portland.
2) to see churches in Portland "from the inside" -- you can't tell what a church is about by looking at the building -- you need to go inside, talk to people, and hear what they actually do.
3) to get a feel for the range and breadth of activities and facilities that constitute a "church," and to develop ideas for what a "bicycle church" would look like.
4) to get out on a bike
5) to have fun

Any more?


Our first stop was the First Baptist Church on SW 12th and Taylor. They were having their annual outdoor service, and had closed the street and filled it with folding chairs, parishoners, and a trombone choir. Ushers handed out hand fans with the church's name and photo on them, a class act, and it made the sun more bearable during the services.

The service proceeded in English, Spanish and Cambodian. Highlights were the Cambodian choir, congregational songs (people swaying to the music, happy kids), the childrens' session, and of course the trombone choir. We considered putting a Bike Temple tract in the donation plate, but decided against it when there wasn't enough cash in there to tuck it under.

The English-speaking preacher didn't score to high with us. He was a bit preachy, his voice seemed unnaturally high-pitched and had an awkward rhythm to it. And the content just wasn't there. If it had been Hellfire and Brimstone, we'd have been drawn right in. If he'd been preaching some good, meaningful stuff about how to be a better person or build community, we'd have payed close attention. But, the fact that I can't remember any of the topic material doesn't speak well for the content.

So, The Baptists didn't make any cyclist converts that day, though Deacon Amos came up with some exciting new copy to work into the next Temple tract.

Next we headed over to St. Francis of Assisi, a 2-square block Catholic facility at 12th and Stark. Half of it is a park, open to the public (though bike repair was prohibited :^( We didn't talk to anyone, but they appear to have an extensive soup kitchen program and other support for homeless/low income folks. We liked the general idea, but figured we'd probably cater more towards needy bicyclists rather than people in need of pretty much anything . Or, rather, that's what I thought...

Our third stop was the "Old Laurelhurst Church" on 32nd and Ankeny. It's a beautiful Mission style church, and none of us knew anything about it, except that they have weddings and such there and if you ride around Portland much you'll ride past this church a lot.

Turns out it's privately owned by Debbie Buckler and her husband. They bought it 20 years ago, stretched themselves to the limit, and closed on it two days before demolition crews were coming in to turn the structure into condos. They raised their three kids there, and still live in the Sunday School rooms upstairs.

It's an absolutely beautiful building, and they've done a tremendous job of keeping it up. It's very original, very vintage 1920s, complete with pipe organ, balcony seating, wide stairways, quirky little rooms in back, and ornate stained glass windows.

The church is used in two ways -- first, for weddings and funerals and such, and second as a rental church for congregations that are remodeling their own buildings. If a church needs to do major work on their building, they'll just rent the Old Laurelhurst Church for a year or two and construction crews can have the run of their old building.

Debbie attended UC Davis and has her old Schwinn in the garage. We offered to give it a once over, but ran out of time.


Our fourth destination was the Rose City Cemetery at 56th and Fremont. It's a privately owned cemetery, has a couple miles of very low traffic roads (a good place to learn to ride a bike), and it's flat. The buildings are closed on Sundays, though, so we didn't get to talk to anyone. And they don't do Green Burials there, so it wasn't of particular interest to me anyway.

Getting there involved climbing up the Alameda Ridge, and it was getting pretty hot and stifling around 2:00 p.m. So rather than linger at the cemetery, we scooted off to Jenny's house to grab some Dr. Pepper popsicles and stash Halley's harp before heading on the The Grotto.

The Grotto was our final destination, at 86th and Skidmore. It's a fabulous place, 1/6 of a square mile of 80 yr old Douglas Firs on the north side of Rocky Butte, with various religious facilities throughout the forest. Only 5 of us made it this far, but it was worth the effort.

Father Ignacius brought us into a small conference room at the visitors' center and told us about this history and all. It's a "shrine" so it doesn't have its own congregation, but hosts Catholics and Noncatholics from all around. It's one of the larger shrines, certainly in the west (he couldn't think of any other examples in the west). It was put together by a couple people who bought the land from the railroad and turned it into something really special.

It was the first anniversary of the dedication of a Philipino shrine at The Grotto, and the outdoor chapel was packed with Philipinos celebrating the anniversary. We sat in on Mass for a song or two, fanning ourselves with our Baptist fans (and buying official commemorative fans on our way out, starting a collection). Priests and nuns were wandering back and forth, candles were burning, the congregation was swaying with the rhythm, and little fans were flapping back and forth to keep people cool. All in the partial shade of a spectacular grove of Douglas Fir, and the altar in a cave in the granite wall. It was pretty fun, but after a few minutes our lunch started calling from Jenny's house, and we made a quiet exit.

We backtracked to Wellington Park on Mason and 66th where we dined on sandwiches, tortillas and humus, and cold drinks, then chilled out in the shade.


The ride was a success, though turnout was light. If anyone has ideas of Sects to visit on future rides, drop us a line or post a comment here on the blog. And anyone is invited to host the rides, we're planning on doing another one in Early September.

Yours in The Faith,
Pasture Ted

1 comment:

  1. This was a real treat, Pasture. Thanks for organizing and leading!