Since 2004 when I began traveling and performing full-time, I have avoided certain words to describe what I do. People I met kept hurling them at me, and I repelled these titles with the same force that I rejected slurs.
Minister, prophetic ministry, doing the Lord’s work, missionary.
These are loaded words for me, in large part because of the many years I spent as a born-again, Evangelical, Conservative, Republican Christian. No wonder I have opted for a faith tradition, Quaker, that does not include ordination and clergy.
Instead I created a different title for myself Theatrical Performance Activist. Lately I have also taken on the title of Bible Scholar, Comic, Lecturer, and Trouble Maker. Among Quakers I don’t mind being called a Traveling Friend, which has an old timey ring to it.
While I have always had to travel to do the work that I do, typically these travels included a flight to a distant place with one or two performances and then the return flight. Lately though because of my distress over climate change and the need to raise awareness about the desperate need to radically decrease our reliance on fossil fuels, I have grounded myself, opting to only travel long-distances by train or bus. This sort of travel is performance art for me as I blog about it, tweet, and share stories in my new presentation, A Queer Response to Climate Change–What Would Walt Whitman Do?
I have spent the last 10 days in North Carolina beginning with my bus ride to Harrisburg, PA, overnight with cool friends and then the Amtrak train trip from Harrisburg, PA to Burlington, NC. About 7 days into the trip I began to feel weary from all the performances, multiple accommodations (all very pleasant) and many many people (who I adore but I am introvert by nature.) On Tuesday I had about 75 minutes between events, so I asked Jennifer Bird, my host at Greensboro College if I could crash in her empty office.
With my “man-bag” wrapped in my scarf as a pillow and my favorite long grey overcoat as a blanket, I took a nap on her carpeted office floor. I suddenly felt like one of those itinerant preachers–George Fox, Charles Wesley, or Sojourner Truth. The weariness had a pleasure that reached my bones. I felt that the work is good, well worth the effort, with the privilege to speak to so many people about gender outlaws in the Bible, waking up from biblically induced comas, and the many ways we can still have hope as we respond to the climate crisis upon us.
Still I am tired and ready for a rest this weekend before presenting over three days at Virginia Theological Seminary starting on Monday.
itinerant noun a person who travels from place to place (especially a traveling church minister or magistrate.