There are times when we each bump up against our own rules in very telling ways. Recently this happened to me while I drove from my home to the cathedral, a trip that takes me over the bridge between West Kelowna and Kelowna.
The speed limit where I merge onto the highway is 80 km an hour. Very quickly, however, upon veering round a bend that leads to the actual bridge, this speed limit changes to 60; not surprisingly, few people on the road reduce their speed—including, I hate to admit, myself.
On this particular trip, as I rounded the bend I noticed a police car coming up the next ramp—in fact, not just one but two police cars. Immediately upon seeing these vehicles, I, like everyone else on the highway, started to slow down to 60 km an hour. As I did this, I found myself feeling amused. Faced with the authorities and the possibility of a speeding ticket, I quickly began to jump through the hoops of the law, doing exactly what these authorities expected and wanted me to do.
What made me smile was the instantaneous connection I made between what I had done and what many people—who come to the cathedral to be married or to have their babies baptized—do. In order to receive the blessing of the church in either of these two sacraments, most people are more than willing to jump through all the hoops to make this happen. What became patently obvious to me was that there is only one difference between me reducing my speed when the police cars appear on the highway and the people who do whatever they need to do in order to be married or have their children baptized. While in the first instance I am the offender, in the second I am the offended.
Every organization has its particular set of rules and regulations, to which most people respond in varying degrees of responsibility and obedience. The church’s experience of this is anything but unique. On my recent sojourn over the bridge and into Kelowna, however, what was a unique experience for me was being hoisted on my own petard, which pointed out to me how it is that I myself often do the very thing that drives me crazy in the actions of others.
The Very Rev. Nissa Basbaum is dean of the Cathedral Church of St. Michael and All Angels, diocese of Kootenay.