Friday, July 01, 2005

Airport chapel and who needs it

One of the more interesting sights on my way back from GA was the DFW Airport Chapel which is served by 16 clergy from the DFW Interfaith Chaplaincy. The pamphlet says that "a Rabbi or a Hindu are available on call." It was quite a nice spot just off of gate B24.

I was particularly struck by the prayer rugs hanging on the wall. The whole terminal was inundated with very young soldiers off on America's crusade.

I was rather distraught by the youth of the soldiers and the tags on their backpacks with Iraqi city names on them. I walked down the terminal to pass the time because my flight was delayed. I got to see the rather nice and crowded USO. I met a couple young Marine recruits on their way to basic training at the MCRD in San Diego and heard a couple old timers tell them it would be fine and how to stay out of trouble.

The operation of the war is mostly removed from the community where I live. Our office has had one reservist go and return, and I have helped one person's kid brother get out of the service (special thanks to the Military Law Task Force and to a couple UU chaplains who answered questions and assisted that young man). I've also taken a small number of draft/conscientious objector questions (remember: potential UU conscientious objectors should register with the UUA registry for COs. The earlier you register, the better it documents sincerity to your draft board.)

At seminary sometimes, a heavy label gets applied to the students, "future religious leaders." As the sea of young faces in desert camouflage paraded by, I found no prayer to speak to the unspeakable loss and futility.

I was reminded of Wilfred Owens:

Anthem for Doomed Youth

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries for them; no prayers nor bells,
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs, --
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

As much as I want to post Dulce et decorum est " My friend, you would not tell with such high zest To children ardent for some desperate glory, The old Lie: Dulce et decorum estPro patria mori." I will resist.

The Send-off

Down the close, darkening lanes they sang their way
To the siding-shed,
And lined the train with faces grimly gay.

Their breasts were stuck all white with wreath and spray
As men's are, dead.

Dull porters watched them, and a casual tramp
Stood staring hard,
Sorry to miss them from the upland camp.
Then, unmoved, signals nodded, and a lamp
Winked to the guard.

So secretly, like wrongs hushed-up, they went.
Thy were not ours:
We never heard to which front these were sent.

Nor there if they yet mock what women meant
Who gave them flowers.

Shall they return to beatings of great bells
In wild trainloads?
A few, a few, too few for drums and yells,
May creep back, silent, to still village wells
Up half-known roads.

Spirit of life, source of all, spark that animates our matter, look after these young souls and those they will encounter. Return us all to the unity of love, whole in body and spirit. Protect us innocents and transgressors all. Full of gratitude for the miracle of living in our bodies and souls, let us pray. Amen and blessed be.


At 3:57 PM, Blogger Obijuan said...

We stopped in the chapel as well while waiting for our flight. Any illusions of interfaith were shattered for me when the first thing we saw on entering was the ginormous brass crucifix that dominated the front table. Made the prayer rugs look like an afterthought (especially when you had to hunt hard for the qiblah). We wondered if any Muslim would feel comfortable praying in that environment.

At 10:33 AM, Anonymous Scott Wells said...

I've worshipped in that chapel, the one in Atlanta and Washington National, and some others I don't recall, more than once. I try to say morning and evening prayer (plus a little prayer for the travellers and staff) in a place where I won't be conspicuous, and I'm usually the only one there at the time. But it has been my experience that if someone is there, he, she, or they are Muslim, which makes sense given the frequency of prayer in Islam. (I leave them to their prayers in peace, and find a quiet corner elsewhere.)

I suspect the brass cross was either set up for a forthcoming service, or was moved off a side-shelf by someone making a Christian majoritarian claim. I'd've left a note for the chaplain. Normally, the ambiguous front-table is as pictured on the blog. The literature racks usually aren't evenly representative -- mostly Christian Evangelical and Muslim literature -- but that's both an issue of supply and demand.

Cost-saving tip: those airport chapels are a good place to buy -- er, leave a donation -- for cheap Bibles and other literature.

At 6:24 PM, Anonymous Enrique said...

I was at the DFW chapel the month after 9/11. I found it a welcoming space, if not a fully ecumenical one. There I found an African American lady in reading a Bible who invited me to prayer. I respectfully declined as I wanted to meditate. Yet, I valued the worship space that she and I created together in our own way.

I am drawn to intimate worship spaces far more than grandious cathedral spaces. When I am at a Catholic cathedral, I am automatically drawn to the small chapels on the side of the altar, if any. I wish more of our UU churches incorporated intimate meditation spaces into their building designs like DFW's.


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