Imagine passengers leaving in an old-fashioned train carriage rolling down the track this time of year. Some are sitting on a comfortable bench seat, if such an arrangement exists. Others might be standing reading a newspaper with one hand and holding on for dear life with the other as the connection between the steel tracks rhythmically shakes the train on its track. A few are pondering into the dark. They pause to see their own image in the distance behind the raindrops lashing the windows while their mind imagines the coming day. Some are picturing or at least wondering what the rest of today will be like. Most are simply traveling. The train is moving slowly, still being close to the station. It has a while to go before it reaches a comfortable speed.

Thinking back to those times when I did use the train service, it always amazes me how shaky the early and final part of a train ride are compared to the overall smoothness that we are accustomed to. In fact, it usually doesn’t pay off to remain upright all the way to have an early sprint to your destination. You might end up being thrown down and limping the remainder of the day instead. Maybe I just didn’t have the right kind of sea legs. Experienced travelers sit back patiently. They let the scenery pass by and allow their imagination to run freely. They know exactly when and where to sit down and get up. A hat, a scarf, a bag. Or none. They seem to move with a calmness of mind reflecting the home they left behind giving them a head start going forward.

Do I dare to reflect on the crazy train ride that 2021 was? A capital letter C springs to mind. A crazy Covid-climate change-certainty of nothing kind of year. Part of it seems to have been a rollercoaster. The optimistic feeling of a vaccine, the despair of people still getting sick, the loneliness. And our efforts to fight it wherever and however we can. That ride isn’t over quite yet it looks like. Part of the ride seems to have been that deep plunge on a water ride. The past year was maybe the first time that we all have gotten a real glimpse at what climate change might mean for us and for our children. This has only just begun I am afraid. Do these events and many others, equally bright and dark in their separate instances, mark the end of certainty as we know it? A new normal is never normal the first time around. Is that why all of us, in our own individual way, celebrate our differences instead of finding comfort in what binds us, not realizing we are all in the same carriage, no matter how far we sit apart from each other?

At the same time, we were also on a journey with St. Andrews. It was, after all, a year of change for our parish. We stopped seeing each other from behind a screen and started to see each other from behind a mask. We started closed down and slowly opened up. We celebrated the departure of Fr. Martin. This journey has been a lot less bumpy than the ones mentioned above. Yet, events like these might equally throw us off our feet, shape our perception and make us doubt what is to become of us, for a while at least. I just try to remember that the trembling of the carriages at the beginning and at the end stand out because the rest of the trip is so smooth. At some won’t we get out footing, find our seating and start enjoying the ride again?

Talking about journeys, my family finally went on holiday again. So did many of you. Not by train, by the way, in our case. We started out slowly. Baby steps and all, thanks to traffic jams. But then we drove. And drove. Further and further. Guess what? We made it all the way to Minnesota! I even set foot in Wisconsin for an odd hour or so to buy some cheese. It seemed appropriate. The trip was fast and smooth. We did not have much time to reflect. Except for slow traffic leaving Washington, we were able to adhere to local speed limits on al- most empty freeways. It meant eyes on the road and enjoying the scenery from behind the windscreen. We stopped for food and some occasional sightseeing, if only to pry our kids’ eyes from their screens in the idle hope that they learn something about their beautiful country and its history. Going over the Continental Divide with its diverse landscapes, entering new worlds, meeting new people. All made us feel blessed. One thing standing out to me is the profound serenity and overwhelming calm, deep in Theodore Roosevelt National Park just before sunset on a hot summer day. A short moment when time paused and made us enjoy an otherwise hectic travel itinerary.

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We have been on several other trips after that, sticking to places in Washington itself and enjoying its splendid diversity in people, plants and, yes, plagues. After fighting the mosquitos in Minnesota, ours seem so much more endearing, although my poor wife and daughter might disagree, having borne the full brunt of their assaults in either place. Not everything went to plan of course. Stuff breaks down, things get wet, time runs out, sometimes catastrophically so. Yet, all things considered, it was a lot better than the year before. We fixed things, we dried out, we adapted and vowed to come back again. Thanks to low expectations, I am pleasantly surprised and grateful. And strangely curious to find out what is next.

We are also grateful for our parish. Here, too, not everything turned out the way we ex- pected. Some things got left undone. Anguish, anxiety, and uncertainty still need fixing. Yet, every obstacle is an opportunity to grow as a parish, as a community, as Christians. We grew in the past year and we will continue to grow this year with Fr. Tom. We’ll get a chance to look at ourselves, at who we want to be, and at what we need to make that happen. And that is the best thing. We can lean back for a moment the train shaking violently in its tracks, our eyes closed, quietly imagining the ride ahead. This year too, or the one after it, or even the year after that, we might enjoy a new beautiful kitchen. Imagine this place where we can all meet again and celebrate. This is the perfect time to look forward to all of this, the dark of winter still raging, don’t you agree?

I am even strangely optimistic about Covid and climate change. Not because I think we will fix it in a month, a year, or even a decade. But because we will keep working on it. While crossing the Continental Divide, one thing struck me. How did our ancestors ever manage the different climates and environments in the past, without air-conditioned, entertainment-filled, high-speed luxury mobiles? Yet, they somehow did. They traveled and adapted. They built and fixed as it broke. Then they patiently dried out and continued. It helps I believe that we are not traveling alone as Christians. Ft. Martin once told us that God promises us to be with us all the way, but that He never promised it would always be fun. There will be changes, no doubt. Imagine all the new things and ideas we will get to explore or invent. Our mosquitos will finally be able to compete with the ones in Minnesota. I am not saying it will be easy. Journeys never are. We will have to prepare. We might have to part with past lifestyles. Lost luggage so to speak. But after experiencing Covid I think we can. If I close my eyes, I believe we’ll discover new ways and improve old ones. Maybe we’ll arrive a little bit later than hoped though.

This time of year, all our trains are slowly departing for their respective destinations in the year ahead. Many people, I included, have been caught up in the pre-Christmas rushed shopping preparations. Even while writing this, Black Friday, Cyber Monday and New Year’s sales have been trying to pull me away. Every online store at home and abroad is seducing me with shiny lights and tantalizing sounds, pre- and post-Christmas, sometimes successfully so. I admit being shaken left and right, distracted by the rain lashing the windows. So, let’s sit back and imagine our train departing. Let’s take a thoughtful breath, trying to make sense of the New year. Let’s feel God’s grace descend upon us. Happy New Year!

The Train Ride – by Giorah Boor, Vestry