July 25, 2011

Letting the Spirit foster change

Paola Murias — stock.xchng
How many Presbyterians does it take to change a light bulb?
What do you mean, change? We’ve always had those light bulbs!

Despite our willingness to joke about being the “Frozen Chosen,” we Presbyterians are stuck in our ways, and we don’t like change. But when you look back at the 2,000-year history of the church, it has been nothing but change.

The first Christians were Jews who followed Jesus’ way. Then the church changed as more Gentiles joined, and you can read in the New Testament how Peter and Paul led the church through those changes.

In the first century, women were leaders in the church: Priscilla, Junia, Phoebe. Then that changed, and it was a millennia and a half before we had female church leaders again.

The Gospel is given to us as an inheritance, and as such, it must be passed on. But not in a dead, petrified way. The word of the lord is living and active, as is the Holy Spirit.

In the parable of the talents, the one who buries his talent, preserving it but not investing or earning interest on it, is scorned by his master.

In the same way, to pass down the faith unaltered and stagnant dishonors it. Faith directed by the Spirit should be re-thought, re-minted in each generation. The church reformed, always reforming.

Just don’t put in those spiral-ly fluorescent bulbs, and we’ll be fine.

July 2, 2011

SunRail off the shelf and on the way

After being shelved for a time while the governor decided whether it was worthy of his blessing, our local commuter train, SunRail, has finally been given permission to proceed. It was a bit iffy for a while there, despite lots of local support, because of course the governor already axed one local rail project. I was surprised to see a story about our little commuter train in the New York Times.

Comments on the article, though, reveal a common misconception about Orlando. Even the author of the article notes about SunRail, "It will not link to the Orlando airport or Disney World, among the region’s biggest traffic generators." A number of commenters (from everywhere, it seems, but Orlando) proclaim their shock that SunRail doesn't connect to the airport or Disney, and declare it therefore useless. Such comments reveal a lack of understanding of our geography and of the purpose of SunRail.

Tourists visit "Orlando" by flying into the airport (which is as far south and east as you can go and still be in the city limits) and then leaving the city limits and going waaaaaay south and west to WDW. They rarely come downtown. SunRail was never meant to serve them. A rail line serving tourists would run from the airport to International Drive, the convention center, Universal Studios, and then waaaaaay the heck down to WDW. And it would be of little use to most people who live here.

Most locals seldom visit WDW. But we commute to work five times a week. Many are stuck on the Interstate 4 parking lot at the beginning and end of every workday. They are the people SunRail is meant to serve. SunRail is meant to alleviate that I-4 traffic, most of which is caused by people driving from the suburbs in the north (Winter Park, Seminole and Volusia counties) to downtown. That's why plans call for building the northern part of the line first -- that's where most of the bedroom communities are.

One local commenter notes that right now, Central Floridians can't leave their cars home. There are no other options. It's true. I once looked into talking the bus to work, and found multiple problems:

Inconvenience: The bus route in my neighborhood was eliminated because of budget cuts, so I'd have to walk 1.8 miles to the closest stop, take the bus downtown, and walk 0.3 miles from the bus stop to the office. Walking more than 2 miles? In Florida? In the summer? By the time I got to work, I'd need a shower.

Cost: Bus fare is $2, one way. I drive an economical car and get about 29 miles to the gallon in the city. The trip from home to office is 9 miles. So even if gas were $6 a gallon, I'd still save money driving.

Time: This was the deal-killer for me. The walk to the bus stop would take about forty minutes. I'd spend half an hour on the bus. Then it's about a five-minute walk to the office. An hour and fifteen minutes for a commute that usually takes me 20-25 minutes by car.

I will ride SunRail, since it won't waste as much of my time as the bus. A station is planned for five minutes from my house, and another a short walk from my office.

Low projected ridership is a problem for SunRail. I don't know what the solution to the ridership problem is. But adding more lanes to I-4 -- on the false supposition that Central Floridians won't ever use a train -- is not a viable solution to the traffic problem.