I drove into White Pine County listening to Ranger Doug’s Classic Cowboy Coral, feeling thankful for Sirius radio when the Spanish language cd’s have over taxed my brain. After awhile I had heard enough of Gene Autry and The Sons of the Pioneers, and switched to Andrea Bocelli singing Cor Te Partio and Jasha Heifetz. I take my musical vacillations as proof that we are made up of diverse subpersonalities. My subpersonalities have little appreciation for each other’s music.
I arrived in plenty of time to check into the Hotel Nevada where they recognized me on the computer, if not by face, as a regular. Last time I was here, it was Halloween. Looking back at my blog posts, I seem not to have described the amazing bar scene at the Hotel Nevada that night. Right out of Star Wars. Incredible costumes on characters of all ages, many of whom would have been pretty colorful without costumes. Saturday afternoon in mid-April, things were more sedate.
When I drove to St. Bart’s for Margaret Bath’s slide show presentation on her mission trip to Kenya with Melvin Stringer’s Kenya Keep project, the first thing I noticed was that there was nowhere to park for a long way around the church. The second thing I noticed was that the parish hall was packed with people. The third thing was that the people included young adults and children. This was Saturday night at church. And in Ely there are options.
The slide show was splendid. It was not the old pity and guilt kind of thing we used to get on TV with Sally Struthers. We saw a lot of beauty and fascinating culture. We saw a land that is trying to get it right – protecting its environment, struggling unevenly toward democracy, working constructively with religious and cultural diversity. We also saw the Kibera slum, one of the world’s largest and poorest centers of urban blight with devastating impact on human lives. We saw the Emmanuel Clinic supported by Kenya Keep alleviating that suffering in Kibera. We saw schools where Episcopalians are sponsoring children for a better life. It was a presentation about poverty and affliction but surrounded by hope and an opportunity for us to make a difference.
To my bishop’s eye, there was something else noteworthy about this – a shared mission between St. Bart’s, Ely and St. Tim’s, Henderson. A diocese is not a regulatory body. It is a partnership (koinonia) in God’s mission. A diocese does not exist in a static way. It is always becoming, forming anew, like fresh skin cells. Margaret’s trip with Kenya Keep was an occasion of our becoming a diocese anew.
Breakfast at the Hotel Nevada. Generous portions. Good prices. Waitresses engaging in witticisms about people with bad altitudes needing altitude adjustments in the form of stiletto heels. I barely noticed the man sitting a stool away from me, but after he left my waitress told me he had bought my breakfast. What do such things mean? My guess is that I was the beneficiary of a gesture of thanks to God for some blessing in his life. Had he not done this, the waitress might not have asked my name and where I am from. She told me about a traveling preacher she knows who lives in Tonopah and also works in mine safety. “Oh, that would be Ken Curtis, I said. He’s sorta one of ours.” A grouchy mustached man sitting down the counter glowering over allegedly hard biscuits explained what Ken does at their mine. We all agreed that Ken is an exemplary person. Before long the waitress owned knowing Fr. Red and Paula Sims. I told her about the Kenya presentation by Margaret – of course, she knew Margaret and Tom, and said the former cook at Hotel Nevada went to St. Bart’s. I opined that “They are good folks over there.”
All I said. Evangelism – all starting with the generous gesture of an anonymous man – who, btw, was only there this morning because his coffee maker broke. Rare to find such generosity in a man with a broken coffee maker.
It was a good Palm Sunday complete with receiving into the church a new young adult. We got the perfect photo of Fr. Red with a mother and baby for the planned billboard ad. Then we dashed to make a house call for a home communion, receiving another new member, and anointing a St. Bart’s veteran member for healing. He is facing a possible major surgery late in life. The new member was his daughter in law who was serving the Lord at home with the gathered family.
Then off to Eureka to celebrate Palm Sunday with St. James. Along the way I listened to Hillbilly Jim’s Moonshine Matinee with included Whisperin’ Bill Anderson singing “The Tips Of My Fingers” and Baldomar Gomez Garza (aka Freddy Fender) singing “Wasted Days And Wasted Nights.” St. James is still a small gathering – 8 people this time – but we sang “the blood songs.” Fitting for the day.
Then it was on to Austin for a working dinner with Frank Whitman, our Lay Chaplain to Miners and Energy Workers. We ate at the Toiyabe Café where I had my customary Ortega Burger. There is a lot of shifting of roles along the Highway 50 Corridor these days. Frank and I were strategizing how to respond to the coming molybdenum boom in Eureka, the geothermal and mining surge around Austin, and the challenge of population growth and social services reductions in Tonopah. A productive meeting. Things are exciting in Central Nevada these days.
Then it was on to Tonopah. I am now safely ensconced at Tonopah Station. Tomorrow Deacon Clelia Garrity and I will sit in on a meeting of Attorney General Reps, county officials, and ecumenical leaders to discuss how this community can find ways to fend for itself as the population surges while state services are being withdrawn. I’m just here to listen, but it sounds like we need to do something.