Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Churches should invest in transportation

It occurred to me, looking at the ride-share sign-up list on my congregation's bulletin board, that someone would have needed to secure a ride to church in order to add his or her name to the list.

Most of our members can also communicate online to match willing drivers with passengers. But it serves to place emphasis on having transportation available to attend your chosen place of worship.

If you attend a local congregation that holds worship services on Saturdays, you may be able to make use of local bus routes like Routes 1 and 4, the north- and southshore connections between Clearlake and Lakeport. You may also make use of Routes 5 and 6, the northern and southern loops around the City of Clearlake.

You may even travel between Lakeport and Ukiah on Lake Transit's Route 7.

But if you attend worship among the majority of churches, which observe a Sabbath on Sunday, you will be without bus transportation to find your way to church.

I think local churches could benefit greatly by some Sunday bus services for about five hours each week. Many churches hold "contemporary" worship at 9 a.m. while more traditional worship takes place at 11 a.m. Other churches hold a single service at 10 a.m.

If Lake Transit operated routes during a five-hour block, from about 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., members of these churches could arrive in time for services and stay to socialize afterward before taking the bus ride home.

Thanks to Google mapping of Lake Transit routes, it should be relatively easy to compare existing stops with the locations of local churches and to plan some Sunday routes that serve as many churches as possible.

These additional runs will, of course, cost money in driver hours, bus wear and fuel as well as any other expenses involved with the running of buses.

In addition to passenger fares, which would only cover some of the costs, I would like to propose that local churches could invest money toward the cost of maintaining these routes. The Lake County Transit Development Plan, dated June 27, 2008, identifies some route "guarantees" that are paid by local agencies:

Lake Transit receives $26,400 from St. Helena Hospital -- Deer Park that helps support Route 3 between Clearlake and Deer Park. Robinson Rancheria contributes $21,600 toward the cost to maintain Route 7.

I don't suggest that any one church should have to come up on their own with the entire 20-plus thousand dollars. But local churches that could be served by the same Sunday run should maybe think of pooling some resources toward this form of ministry through service.

As an alternative, church denominations may have grant funding to cover some Sunday routes. Something called a "Chalice Lighters Grant" supports religious education for our Unitarian Universalist congregation. Other denominations may make similar funding sources available.

And when you think about the growing awareness among various denominations, about the importance of stewardship toward the planet that we all share, it makes sense for churches to invest in transportation that could have much less impact than if every single family were to each arrive at church in a car.

Published June 2, 2009 in the Lake County Record-Bee

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