Slouching Toward Bedlam

Of Chapel Committees and Kings; Or, Cal and the Art of Automotive Maintenance

Industrial arts teacher Gord Winkle gathered up his notebook, pen, and folder; stuck an emergency Snickers bar in his front pocket; and locked the door to the shop. It was third hour. Still two periods to go until lunch time, and now he had to walk to the other end of the building and climb two flights of stairs to get to Cal Vandermeer’s room for chapel planning period. It was a long way to go, and there was no legitimate way to detour past the counselor’s office to see if they had any leftover doughnuts. Ever since Bedlam had started experiencing declining enrollment and the school board decided that students could waive industrial arts in order to take three AP classes in a single semester, he had fewer and fewer students. This was the first year, though, that enrollment dipped so low that Principal VanderHaar had been forced to find something to fill Gord’s schedule. Hence, by scheduling necessity, Gord had become a chapel sponsor.

As he waded through the students who were moving to their next classes, Gord fumed that this was really not his thing. Cal was the Bible teacher. He had the connections and the themes and the Bible verses. Sure, Gord went to church and talked in his classes about how Jesus was a carpenter and God was a creator, and he had even done that chapel about the craftsmanship displayed in the ark of the covenant once—but he felt incompetent about this assignment.

He was out of breath and a couple of minutes late when he arrived. Cal had the student chapel committee arranged in a semicircle as usual. There were twelve of them. Mostly honors students and artsy-fartsy kids, not the sort he typically taught in shop. But when he and Cal had picked the team, Gord had insisted that they include King Kendall and Nikki Yang. Both were shop kids. King was the son of a remarkably unsuccessful farmer. Nikki was right at home with the guys and had aced her carburetor project the week before. But she didn’t fit in with the rest of the school. And now Gord was thinking that maybe his insistence on having them on the team was a mistake.

Because he was late, he had missed Cal’s “Prayer of Abiding,” which Cal referred to as an “important formational spiritual practice,” but Gord thought it was really a whole lot of uncomfortable silence punctuated with awkward moments when two people would start praying at the same time. Anyway, they were on to the planning part. Gord grabbed the desk chair and wheeled it to the circle, since, unlike Cal, he would never fit into a student desk.

“Welcome, brother!” Cal boomed. “You are just in time to help us work something out. We are talking about who could speak on the topic of thanksgiving within authentic community, and your disciple Nikki just suggested we have Mrs. Lisa Lambert speak.”

It sounded like a great idea to Gord. Mrs. Lambert had sent three of her children to Bedlam and had created lots of authentic community by bringing her fabulous cowboy cookies to every meet, match, game, concert, play, and gathering Bedlam had. “Great idea!” Gord said. Then, as Cal frowned, Gord wondered what he had done wrong. Both Nikki and King shot him a sympathetic look.

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