faith on a plane.

25 May

Talking with a colleague recently, he asked about the increased travel I am doing as a Congregational Life Consultant for the Southern Region of the Unitarian Universalist Association. I told him I enjoyed it, and that I had worked out most of the details – what processes work for me, what hotel chains I like, when to fly. At that last point, we talked about how difficult it can be to fly as clergy – as soon as our seatmates ask what we do for a living, it opens all sorts of doors for conversations we may, or may not, want to have.

When I told him that, for the past 9 months, I have been wearing my clerical collar whenever I fly, his face took on a shocked expression. “Why on earth would you do that?” he asked me.

I shared with him that I was bothered by the increasing violence that is occurring on planes, and that I wanted to be prepared to be a force for good if something happened in my presence. I know that people respond differently to me when I wear a collar. If I were to witness something violent on a plane, in a collar I could stand up and be a witness in ways that are more powerful than I could as a mid-40 year old woman. Especially if I then started singing or praying.

I also want people to know that I am a safe person – that I am willing and able to try to de-escalate a situation, or be a good ally if that is needed. So in addition to my collar, I also wear my Black Lives Matter/Pride Flag/World Religions safety-pin (which I wear every day). Needless to say, the combination of my pins with my collar have brought interesting conversations, a few frowns, but mostly I get smiles and “Thank you” comments.

I completely understand why some of my clergy colleagues prefer to travel anonymously. But for me, this public witness is a part of my spiritual practice when I travel. It is a away to claim my religious authority and put my faith in action and declare that I am on the side of the marginalized. As a white minister, I have so much privilege. This feels like a good way to use it. I hope I am never needed in such a way when I travel, but if something does happen, I am ready.

3 Responses to “faith on a plane.”

  1. Carlotta Stomberg May 25, 2017 at 11:58 am #

    I applaud you, Dawn, for wearing your collar when flying. Indeed, there is such anger and frustration in people, that you would be recognized as a “sanctuary” and better able to defuse situations.

  2. Judy Welles May 25, 2017 at 7:42 pm #

    John Buehrens had this practice when he travelled: when asked what he does for a living, if he felt like talking, he’d say he’s a minister; if he didn’t feel like talking, he’d say he’s a theologian.

    • Rev. Dawn May 25, 2017 at 7:49 pm #

      That is brilliant! Thank you for sharing that with me!!

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