A promise kept and a challenge made

When Harold Beer arrived in Cleveland Thursday for General Synod, he fulfilled a promise made two years ago at GS 29 in Long Beach, Calif.

In a Speak-Out response to a Synod resolution on fossil fuels, Beer asked delegates to “turn in our plane tickets and find an alternative way to travel” to GS 30 in 2015. He offered to ride a bicycle from his home in Lansing, Mich., for the event.

On June 25, Beer and his partner cyclist Kayla Cicola rolled up to the Cleveland Convention Center, completing a 4-day journey of 259 miles. They traveled light, carrying only the clothes they needed for the journey and some other critical supplies. Along the way, they enjoyed the hospitality of churches and church members and encountered the kindness of strangers.

“The idea that two people can go out with minimal things and ask for what they need and be given what they need [is a an example of] extravagant welcome,” Beer said. “That’s Biblical.”

Beer and Cicola are members of Edgewater United Church, East Lansing, Mich.

The 2103 resolution called for “a spectrum of strategies” to address the growing environmental impact of fossil fuels, including lifestyle changes, regulation, educational programs and divestment. A resolution to be considered at the current General Synod calls for a transition from fossil fuels to other alternative energy sources.

Beer sees his ride as a way to promote a more local approach. “The point is not to ride 259 miles to General Synod, but to ride 2-1/2 miles to your local church.”

Planning for the journey began in November 2014. Lodging and other needs along the route were easily found. “We just asked, ‘Wouldn’t you like to help somebody who is doing something a bit crazy?'” Churches in Manchester, Mich., Maumee, Ohio, and Monroeville, Ohio, answered the call for accommodations. The generosity even extended to bountiful meals and comfortable bedding for the night, a welcome outcome after a day of riding.

There were also the random encounters and acts of kindness. Cicola recalls asking an ice cream shop if the two could wait out a rain storm under the store’s ample awning and ending up with “giant amounts of ice cream.” And Beer fondly remembers a woman known only as Marge who saw the pair resting under an apple tree near her home. Amazed the two were biking all the way to Cleveland, Marge offered cold water and snacks to boost their energy.

Beer expects the journey that began with a Synod Speak Out moment to end with a Speak Out moment. “I will definitely stand up at a Speak Out,” he says. “I want people to know, ‘He follows through.'”

Categories: United Church of Christ News

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