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By Barbara McDowall

On Sunday, July 15, I attended a service at my old church in Toronto, Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto.  It has been a year since my last visit.  I very much miss the way this church does worship – the atmosphere is one of joyous, hopeful energy, the worship experience is deep and meaningful coupled with a great music ministry that incorporates not only some traditional music but with the inclusion of spectacular, meaningful and buoyant contemporary music.  And it has an awesome choir.  The messages are powerful, practical and relevant. Often we are treated to some of the Toronto entertainment community’s talented soloists.  This particular Sunday was no different – Thom Allison sang an inspired version of Over the Rainbow! 

In his talk, Rev. Elder Jim Mitulski's (with the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches (UFMCC) in the US ( ) shared his inspirational journey to an orphanage in Zimbabwe.  He was a member of a team of individuals from both UFMCC and the United Church of Christ in the USA.  The team had brought with them Aids medication as well as their skills in pastoral care to share with the children, their families and caregivers over a period of a few weeks.

Jim spent his early years as a gay man in San Francisco ~ living in the Castro district.  This bus ride to the orphanage brought a flood of memories about the many bus loads of people who would come to tour the Castro Village in San Francisco when Aids first came on the scene back in the early 80’s.  Visiting the homosexuals in that part of town was a highlight of a trip to the city.  It must have been quite a sight not much different from people visiting animals in their natural habitat.

When the residents learned a bus of tourists was on its way, some members of the community would respond by primping and preening for the tourists.  Sometimes even surrounding the bus and encouraging them to get off and meet them.  No one ever got off those buses.  Not one of them took the risk of getting off and being changed by the experience; of changing the way they viewed the other outside the bus.

Now many years later, he was approaching this orphanage in Zimbabwe on a bus. His bus was greeted by the children and staff of the orphanage singing and chanting to welcome them.  Jim was now the one on the bus being driven into a situation and locale completely foreign to him ~ very much outside his comfort zone.  He was aware of what Seinfeld’s George Costanza would call it world's colliding ~ the Castro Village and the Zimbabwe Village had finally come full circle.  What a profound awakening. 

It got me thinking about the issue of safety and our need to ensure we are safe in all we do; in all our relationships, whether personal or professional.  Have we become afraid to take risks?  Risk taking is the cornerstone of the teachings of most of our spiritual teachers, e.g. Krishna, Buddha, Jesus, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, et al.  Have we become observers of life like the busloads who visited Castro Village in the 80's without being engaged in life?  Are we on a bus afraid to get off and engage in our lives and the world around us?

By getting off the bus, we might open ourselves to opportunities and potential to not only make a difference in the lives of others but more importantly to make a difference in our own lives.  Once we get off the bus, we are free to be all we are here to be and to connect with our humanity and the humanity around us.

In taking risks it is important to get on the bus when it pulls up.  More importantly, we must be aware and conscious the longer we stay on the bus that it too becomes a comfort zone inhibiting us from moving forward in reaching our full human potential; to fulfilling our purpose for being on the planet.  The more often we get off the bus the more consciously authentic we allow ourselves to become. 

The metaphor of the bus is an excellent one.  It refers to anything that affords us safety and comfort and keeps us from taking risks, e.g. church, school, family, and work.  Oftentimes, without knowing it we have built a comfortable three storey condo in those places; we become afraid; we become complacent and we unconsciously do whatever it takes to ensure it stays that way. 

Getting off the bus means we give notice we are prepared to take the risk of discovering our self and our humanity, thus, closing the artificial gap that appears to exist between you, me and the rest of our human family.  In doing that, anything is possible ~ the cosmos is the limit!

Authentic Living