Wellness advocates repeatedly remind one another that their work is not about themselves, but about providing space to pastors that do not otherwise have a sounding board of their own. With just a simple opening question, we never really know how a conversation will flow until it flows. Of course, the talks can run the gamut…and then there is the occasional surprise.
“Hello Pastor XYZ! What’s new? What’s exciting? What’s different?” That was my admittedly corny opening for calls on this particular day. Before I could mentally rapture myself to the unemployment line for such a clumsy opening, the pastor says, “Well, I raced a school bus yesterday!”
As it turns out, Rev. Andrew Brown, senior pastor of Hawthorne Lane UMC in Charlotte, happens to be the winner of the 2012 “Faster Pastor” race, an annual spectacle in which “local men of the cloth wheel 13-ton monstrous machines…”
Pastor Andrew was kind enough to grant an interview to Spirited Life about this incredible experience.
ME: What made you decide to enter the ‘Faster Pastor’ race? How did you hear about it?
ANDREW: I received an email from the district office saying they needed pastors to drive in a school bus race. It sounded interesting; who wouldn’t want to drive a bus around a race track when someone else is paying for the gas!
ME: Describe your bus – who painted it?
ANDREW: I rallied some of our church members to get a pit crew together. They were responsible for the design and painting of the bus. The pit crew consisted of children, youth, and enough adults to make it legal. We had an artist and an interior designer on the crew. The final design was created by one of our church’s fifth graders; “Jesus Take the Wheel” was the theme. Everybody really got into it.
ME: What was it like to get behind the wheel?
ANDREW: Getting behind the wheel was a rush – a four-point harness, a full face helmet with radio receivers, and a couple of track mechanics explaining how to drive the bus.
ME: Did you do a donut in the grass after you won the race?
ANDREW: [Laughing] No, the engine wouldn’t go fast enough.
ME: What was your winning strategy, and what did you do to celebrate?
ANDREW: I don’t think I really had a winning strategy. I was surprised to win. I just went back to the lessons I learned in childhood driving go-carts. Go fast and stay upright.
I wasn’t really sure how to drive against a bunch of pastors. I mean, I didn’t know if they would drive aggressive or not. Then, when we went into the first turn, one of the other drivers nailed me in the back fender and I thought, “OK…it’s on!” I did my best to keep it together, and everything worked out great!
We had about 30 people from our congregation come to watch the race, including my wife and two of our children. The Faster Pastor race was a novelty race between the real [NASCAR] races that night.
Also my parents, who have both gone through some serious health issues lately, were there, and that really meant a lot. They rode from their home, about 2 hours away, with my oldest brother and his wife. After the race (and the win) I went with my family to Cracker Barrel to celebrate. We brought the trophy in [the restaurant], sat it on the table and had a great time!
ME: Are you in again next year?
ANDREW: I don’t know if I will be able to do it again next year. But I would love to do it again.
ME: Assuming this is one fun way to let off some steam, what are some of the other ways you try to reduce stress?
PASTOR: I didn’t enter the race to reduce stress. I did it to have fun. I believe there is in each of us a kid who “had to” grow up. It is important for us to let that kid out from time to time and have fun! Maybe that’s what Jesus was getting at when he said you must enter the Kingdom as a little child.
As Pastor Andrew enthusiastically described his experience, he said, “I’ve gotta take more chances in life!” It sounded as if he had rediscovered some laughter and adrenaline that he had been missing. It seems that this experience gave him an opportunity to channel fun memories from his childhood, while creating lasting memories for his congregants and family members in the stands as supportive witnesses.
As men and women of clergy who are dealing with countless stressors spiritually and professionally, it can be easy to forget or bypass those hobbies, those moments that give us a chance to have fun. Have you put a hobby on the back burner? How long ago? Maybe it is time to think about reconnecting with something fun that will give you joy, laughter and some great memories.
— Angela MacDonald
(Pictures and YouTube video provided by Jami Brown and CMS/HHP Photo)