Last Friday found us on the road to Nashville, where the More Light Presbyterians regional conference was being held. J even survived the trip! She despises being in the car longer than about 20 minutes, so the 6 hour drive was not her idea of fun. However, we got a book on CD & that helped somewhat. I was so excited to be making the trip that the drive didn't bother me at all. Coming into sight of the Batman building made it all worth it. Oh, who am I kidding? I love car trips even when the destination isn't a beloved city. I keep hope alive that someday I will be able to persuade J to head down to Florida with me by car. I love to head down through the gorgeous mountains in West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina. In another few weeks, azaleas will be blooming throughout the Southeast. I always love stopping to visit the Sea Islands and Savannah. Perhaps I can at least talk her into flying down to Georgia for a vacation sometime. I think her agreeing to a car trip like that is about as likely as me agreeing to a dog joining our household!
We checked into the Holiday Inn in Brentwood. We had chosen that over the conference hotel largely because it has a Jacuzzi and the other one did not. We spent some time in the room, then headed down to Lafitte's, in the hotel, for a pre-conference bite to eat. J had a cup of scrumptious crab bisque while I indulged in a side order of jambalaya. We also shared a gorgeous salad featuring blue cheese and walnuts. Then, we headed over to Vanderbilt Divinity School for the conference. The main function Friday night was a worship service in the chapel. The sermon was given by a Vanderbilt professor of homiletics & ethics. He took the unusual step of preaching on Revelation, something I have never heard done in a Presbyterian Church before. I really liked what he did with it, though. I wish I could remember the pericope. He talked about how Empire today means the Organized Church. It was very powerful.
After the service, we walked back to the car in the sprinkly, chilly streets & indulged in a hot tub soak back at the hotel. Being in that hot tub was the only time I was warm all weekend. I spent the rest of the time absolutely chilled. It was so nice to be in the large, clean hot tub. We were the only ones in there. We had our books along & did manage to do some reading, but a decent chunk of our time there was spent enjoying the fat snowflakes falling outside the greenhouse-style windows. They just looked so lush.
In the morning, we went out to the car & got ready to hit the road. However, we didn't get far before we heard a dreadful noise. I was familiar with the noise, the sound of a flat, flat tire. I had just had the tires checked, so I figured it wasn't a leak. Since we both suck at anything like changing tires, we ended up having to get help. We couldn't even get the jack free from its holder, it was wedged in so tightly. Some dykes we are! And I was so proud of the new hole punched in my butch card for changing my own air filter two days before. Sigh. The hotel staff at the front desk were completely useless and unhelpful in assisting us. At best, they could have had one of their maintenance guys get our spare on for us. Failing that, they could at least have recommended someone to come rescue us. But, no, they handed us a Yellow Pages and were done with us. The desk staff had been very rude when we checked in as well. The same fella, name of Chris, had also been rude to me when I called for a wake-up call Friday night. In fact, he was so over-the-top in his rudeness (an odd thing to find in Nashville, usually) that we suspect him of having been the culprit in our tire slashing. The manager will be getting a letter about the rudeness of the front desk folks. The young man who did come to our rescue, all decked out in baseball cap and holey boots, was so kind and undercharged us by $30.
When we finally got to the conference, we had missed Naomi Tutu's keynote speech. We spoke to her for a few minutes, then headed on to the first workshop. It was on why homosexuality is not a sin. At least, that was the idea, but it ended up being much more about the church's stance. I have read enough books on why it's not a sin that I was very happy with the info we did get. However, both J & I were amazed at how ugly the language in the 1978 Policy Statement regarding the matter is. The presenter was pastor emeritus of Mount Auburn Church in Cincinnati. The Cincinnati Presbytery is sending an overture to the GA this summer to delete these passages. Wow, do I hope the GA does that.
After lunch, we attended a workshop led by the national field organizer for MLP. He is from Santa Fe & looks it! He looks like he'd hang out with Natalie Goldberg. It was interesting to me to meet openly gay ordained Presbyterian elders. This workshop was on how to make our churches more accepting. I have concluded that it is a must to get a Turning Points DVD & see if I can get our Sunday shool class to watch & discuss it. If not, we'll invite people over for a coffee & viewing. The national field organizer had chosen J & me to lead the closing worship service, so we did that & then ducked out to buy a new tire. The thing to me that was the most interesting about the whole conference was that a good chunk of the folks there were not gay, but were straight allies. That is great!
We took the car to Firestone & walked up to Union Station to take a look at the lobby. J had never been there. They are doing restoration work, but we were able to see the stained glass, ironwork, and other architectural details around the scaffolding. We visited with a little dog back at the tire place while we waited for our car to be ready. We left $100 poorer, but with good spirits, anyway. We drove around & looked at The District while we tried to decide where to eat. So many wonderful choices! I love Nashville! J wouldn't give me input, so I decided just to head out West End & drive until either she made up her mind or we reached the Loveless Cafe. She spotted Tin Angel, where I always wanted to eat when I lived there. We decided on that, handed the car over to the valet, and put our name in. While we waited, we sat by the fireplace and people-watched. Dinner turned out to be fantastic. We split a delicious goat cheese soufflé for our appetizer. Then, J had a wonderful stuffed salmon entrée with a smoked gouda gratin on the side while I enjoyed filet mignon with a wine reduction and blue cheese. For dessert, I chose the caramel bread pudding to split, knowing that J would love it. I am not much of a bread pudding fan, but she did love it & I was fine with it, too. What I am really hungry for these days is bananas Foster.
After dinner, we went to Tribe, a gay bar on Church Street. We met some of the guys from the conference there & had fun talking to them and people-watching. The youngsters cruising each other & the videos shown on the many screens made us realize how out of touch with pop culture we are! But, it was fun.
In the morning, we went to the 10:30 service at Woodland Presbyterian. It's a beautiful old church, built in 1917 or 1918, with a very small congregation. It was a nice service. Afterward, we stayed to chat with some folks at fellowship time...and to eat some very good King Cake one of the conference attendees had brought up from New Orleans. The Presbyterians share the building with an African-American congregation who started their service with some amazing African drumming. The energy level in the building was raised through the roof & we wished we didn't have to hit the road. We definitely would have stayed for that service, as well. Before we left, we got many hugs from fellow conferences attendees, kisses from the MLP field organizer, and a ton of encouragement & good wishes for my time in seminary from the pastors.
On the way home, we stopped at a little gas station restaurant in Kentucky called Country Fixens. My bet was that they'd have good, bad-for-you Southern food & I was right. I had some fantastic fried chicken, with mashed potatoes & long-cooked green beans while J ate yummy roast beast with mashed potatoes & corn (she, of course, mashed them all up together). The pie was tempting, but we were full. Would that I could get sweet tea around here. I was so happy to be able to order sweet tea in the restaurants during our weekend down south. Even when places up here have it, it doesn't taste the same.