What's Tony Thinking

Off To San Miguel de Allende


We are traveling today to San Miguel de Allende, a lovely small city nestled in the Sierra Madre Mountains about four hours north of Mexico City. It is popular destination for international visitors, but equally popular with Mexican tourists as well. Set at 6500′, San Miguel is full of art, music, great restaurants, beautiful churches and public squares.

While there I serve as the “minister-in-residence” for the Community Church of San Miguel de Allende, a congregation established fourteen years ago. CCSMA serves primarily American and Canadian ex-pats who come from a variety of church backgrounds, including among others, Methodist, Baptist, Mennonite, Episcopal and Presbyterian. Linda goes to a language school deepening her Spanish.

My duties include planning worship, preparing sermons, preaching and leading worship for the nine Sundays as well as Holy Week services, some pastoral care and attending meetings of the church’s various boards and committees. The congregation staffs itself through this MIR program which means, among other things, that if you don’t care for a particular minister, “this too shall pass,” and fairly soon.

Clergy are provided with a great place to live and round-trip transportation, but are otherwise unpaid. CCSMA meets in a rented warehouse. So, operating costs are kept low, allowing the congregation to direct more than 50% of all offerings to community service work in the wider San Miguel community.

People here have often expressed concern about our safety while in Mexico. My usual response is that we actually feel safer there than in present-day Seattle. I can say for sure that the kind of scene pictured at right, in front of Ballard Public Library in Seattle yesterday morning, would never be tolerated in San Miguel.

Little to no trash on the streets, no sprawling littered encampments, no graffiti of drug paraphernalia on the streets. It all contributes to a sense of order and and community pride in San Miguel.

Speaking of safe and well-maintained public spaces and facilities, I have a lovely movie to recommend. “Perfect Days” is a Japanese film, directed by the German director, Wim Wenders. If you’re in Seattle it is playing at the Uptown theater in lower Queen Anne as part of SIFF (Seattle International Film Festival).

It is a beautiful film centered on a main character Hirayama, portrayed brilliantly by Kaji Yakusho. Hirayama works cleaning the famed public bathrooms/ toilets of Tokyo. I know, doesn’t sound like much a draw, but trust me on this one.

One of the subplots is the attractiveness of this humble man to women a generation younger. The attraction is not sexual. It is more as if they are looking for a father figure, for some reliable and decent man, which Hirayaka is.

Perhaps, as in contemporary America, many younger men in Japan are immature and seemingly adrift. One such character, who appears in the film is a co-worker of Hirayama. This young man fits that m.o. He does the least he can to get by on the job. He pursues schemes, several at Hirayama’s expense, to get a hold of money and things that he thinks are the key to attracting a girlfriend. There’s much more in this simple but touching movie. Don’t miss it!

For the next two months my blogs will be coming to you from San Miguel. The church usually does a youtube video of the sermon, which I will also post. As the saying goes, “Be well, do good work and stay in touch.”


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