I have been travelling this week to a Chaplain and Clergy conference of my church, the Apostolic Catholic Orthodox Church in Houston Texas. It has been a really interesting trip. Just a few notes to make as I sit in the back of a cab on the way out to Houston Intercontinental Airport and in the terminal while awaiting my flight.
I am not a big fan of flying anymore and find commercial air in the United States to be a bit more nerve wracking than flying military air in Iraq. There I was treated well and not as a criminal when trying to get aboard an aircraft. I think that the Patriot Act and the TSA has determined that we are all guilty until proven innocent because we wither choose to fly or due to business, even on military orders have to fly. After my criticisms of both the TSA and the Patriot Act last year I was shocked that I have not been put on the no-fly list or selected to have my junk fondled.
In a surprise I found that the agents for U.S. Air were much more polite and helpful than in years past both at Norfolk and Houston. At Norfolk an agent figured out that I was military by my trusty desert tan Blackhawk backpack which has accompanied me almost everywhere since I went to Iraq back in 2007 and made sure that I or you being the taxpayer were not charged for my baggage. The flight crews were also friendly and the check-in personnel at Houston were also polite and helpful and did the same as Norfolk regarding my baggage.
While still having to go through the screening procedure the TSA personnel were better than many that I have encountered and I was not forced to have my junk fondled or go through the super high intensity x-ray machine. Unlike many TSA checkpoints that I have been through I had the agent that checked my ID and boarding pass was polite and called me by my military rank. This may not seem like a big deal except that I have been accosted in uniform at some TSA checkpoints and forced to remove insignia qualification badges and ribbons despite having my ID and orders in hand while people that were obviously foreign and wearing Middle Eastern garb were permitted through without so much as batting an eyelash. Thus when I am treated politely by TSA I do think that it is a big deal. That takes nothing away from my beliefs that the Patriot Act and the TSA act as though people are guilty until proven innocent and are egregious violations of the Constitution and the Civil Rights of Americans.
While on flight from Charlotte to Houston I sat next to a man about my age. I noticed that he had a Bible and throughout the flight seemed very engrossed in it and when he looked up appeared as if his gaze was far away. I noticed that he was reading 2nd Corinthians chapter 5 and I mentioned that my one of my favorite sections of the Bible was there. He ask which and I pointed out verses 17-21 about those in Christ being new creations and that God was reconciling the World through Christ counting people’s since not against them and that we were Christ’s ambassadors. He struck up a bit of a conversation with me and mentioned that he was a minister on the staff of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg Virginia and that he was on his way to Texas because his father had just died after a battle with Cancer and that he would be doing his funeral. I had been writing “A Ballgame with St. Pete” and remembering my own father’s death last summer so I gave him my condolences and shared just a bit about losing my dad and how I could not do the funeral because of the emotion involved. It was nice to be there for someone going through this as the trip to bury a loved one can be one of the loneliest times of one’s life.
The conference was wonderful and in the time together we had many hours of productive discussion of church business, developments in the professional pastoral care world and care for each other. I found that I fit in well and felt an instant kinship with my fellow clergy which in my case for the first time in church included ordained women. My previous church had a male only clergy. I found how much I appreciate the Old Catholic ethos of being a refuge, a place of healing and a place of openness which upholds the teachings of the first seven councils of the Ancient Church and strives for thru ecumenical Catholicity. Bishop Diana Dale our Presiding Bishop is a gem and I felt kinship with the people that I met. I miss the friends that I served with in the Charismatic Episcopal Church for over 14 years I know that I am in the right place.
After our last formal business session on Saturday we went to get to the San Jacinto Battlefield and while some went to the Memorial to the Texas Independence Memorial some of us went over to the USS Texas to see this last example of the Dreadnought era battleships. I have wanted to see the Texas for many years and have written about her on this site. It was interesting to note despite the fact that she was commissioned 98 years ago that much is still the same in current Navy ships. Yes things were a lot more primitive but at the same time much was the same. It was really a nice expedition with Robert one of my fellow Priests from Maryland and Gale our senior Deacon who comes from Iowa.
After the trip we went out to a Mexican restaurant named Ninfa’s where the Fajita was invented. One thing about that trip was when we were told that our table was ready. The restaurant was very busy and we waited in the bar. When we were called we were led in and on our right a man, obviously military was giving thanks for the meal with his family. They were holding hands and he had a very loud and clear voice and I heard this little bit. “Father I thank you for being home with my family and that I have returned safe from Afghanistan, please bring a swift end to this war….” That was all that I heard but it was enough to get me to pause and realize that it was my prayer too. I think that some people wrongly believe that those that serve in the professional military are warmongers when in fact I know that many have no illusions about this war and after 10 years many, especially the regular career professionals in the officer and senior NCO ranks feel the same way. It was a poignant moment. We know that the current war will go on and most of us are convinced that the situation around the world is going to cause us to be embroiled in even more conflicts.
I think there was one other significant thing about this trip. I was able to control my anxiety and did not have any PTSD meltdowns in any of the terminals or crowded situations. Not to say that I was entirely comfortable or without anxiety but that unlike many of the trips that I have made since returning from Iraq I did not suffer any panic attacks.
This morning we had an ordination service for a new Deacon which was really nicely done with the traditional Ordination of a Deacon Liturgy and Mass. After that was done I had to make a quick change to catch a cab back to the airport. I look forward to being home for a bit before Judy comes with me to help me settle in to my new island hermitage on Tuesday.