(Unedited) Podcast Transcript 380: A 15 Minute Church

April 28, 2022

This week we’re joined by Travis Norvell, Minister at Judson Memorial Baptist Church in Minneapolis to talk about his book Church on the Move.  We talk about transforming church parking lots, creating bike commute reports for local radio, and how church has changed after the advent of the automobile.

You can listen to the show at Streetsblog USA and on our hosting page.

Below is a full unedited transcript:

Jeff Wood (1m 40s):
Well, Travis Norvell, welcome to the Talking Headways podcast.

Travis Norvell (1m 42s):
Great to be here. Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.

Jeff Wood (1m 44s):
Yeah. Thanks for being here before we get started. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Travis Norvell (1m 48s):
Yeah. I am American Baptist Minister at Judson Memorial Baptist Church in south Minneapolis. I have three kids, two in college, one in high school, and a number of years ago, about 10 years ago almost. I started exclusively, you know, biking, walking and taking public transit for my job as a pastor.

Jeff Wood (2m 6s):
And what brought that about, I mean, it seems from the reading, the book that there’s many times where you tried to give up your car and then it didn’t quite work out. What was the impetus for doing so the first time initially?

Travis Norvell (2m 15s):
Oh yeah. So, you know, when I was in sixth grade, I grew up in a little town in West Virginia and we went to Washington DC for a patrol trip patrols. We were the people who helped kids cross the road for school. And so we went to Washington, DC. We’re in the bus, we’re driving an IC for the first time ever a dedicated bike lane. I’m 12 years old. And I think it is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. And I just wanted to have, I don’t know, I just wanted to that to be part of my life. And so when I started working and I kept trying it and just after almost like a comedic error as it just wouldn’t happen. And then till I moved to Minneapolis in the middle of a polar vortex. So

Jeff Wood (2m 54s):
Yeah. How is it cycling on the call? I mean, Minneapolis is known for its hardiness of the, that live there in terms of their biking. So how was that when you had to wake up and it’s cold outside and you get to work,

Travis Norvell (3m 4s):
You know, some days it’s hellish, you know, I gotta be honest with you, but the other days, I mean, most days it’s good. It’s at first two minutes of biking, that’s really kind of hard on you and it makes you want to just have a heated seat, you know, once you, once your body temperature gets warmed up, it’s, it’s fine. It’s at first two minutes, like, ah, come on.

Jeff Wood (3m 22s):
Well now in Minneapolis, your, your car light, and I was interested by the story that you told of talking to your daughter after sermon of how you were like, yep. Well, I, you know what, I finally need to get rid of this Passat.

Travis Norvell (3m 32s):
Yeah, yeah, yeah. You know, I was preaching a sermon on Christian socialism and the question I asked everybody was, you know, what are you willing to sacrifice in your life so that others may experience joy. And I am, I’m putting my daughter to bed at the time. Cynical is 12. And she says, Hey, dad, just innocently. She said, Hey dad, what do you think you’re going to do? You’ve slipped the sacrifice. Other people can experience joy. And I just went ashen. I didn’t have enough response for her. I felt like a complete phony, you know, we talked about environmentalism since she was born. And I was like, okay, I gotta do something. So that night I just started researching, how do you bike year round? And what do I need to take the bus and walking? And it was also the same time that this Volkswagen Passat that I had, you know, the heater went out on it and I was tired of just spending thousands of dollars in repairs for it.

Travis Norvell (4m 18s):
And I was like, that’s it. So I was able to get the, like the heater kind of working enough to sell it. And I took all the proceeds from that and bought the necessary gear for winter biking. And yeah, it was, it was off to the races then.

Jeff Wood (4m 31s):
It’s interesting. We share the same kind of story. I mean, when I got rid of my car here in San Francisco, it was about, I think it was like 2012 or so 2010 something I can’t even remember anymore. Cause it feels like such a long time ago, but it was a Volkswagen Jetta and I was tired of all the maintenance fees and stuff like that. And also they just instituted parking permit on my street. And since my car was registered at my grandmother’s house, they wouldn’t let me get a permit. And then also my clutch was bad. And so I was like, well, this clutch is going to cost the same as the car is worth. And so there’s another funny story about who I sold the car to, but that’s for another day, but, and I was like, okay, then I can do this. You know, it was right. Kind of around the time of Zipcar was just kind of taken off and there’s other options, other alternatives. And there’s also, you know, obviously in the bay area, it’s easy to get on my bike and I use the proceeds to buy a new bike as well.

Jeff Wood (5m 16s):
So I appreciated your story cause I felt some kinship in that.

Travis Norvell (5m 19s):
Yeah. And that car, you know, it was obviously I bought it in new Orleans. I found out after I bought it, you know, it had been flooded during Katrina.

Jeff Wood (5m 25s):

Travis Norvell (5m 26s):
Yeah. That was part of the problem. The only saving grace of that car was I had this little joke whenever I go to a new store or a new place, I’ll say, Hey, it’s my first time here. They, I get a free t-shirt, you know, or maybe like a high five or something. And you know, I went to the Volkswagen place, this little independent shop and I said, Hey dad, can I get a free t-shirt anyone who told you about the free t-shirt the dream and tell you about the free t-shirt dammit, what size you wear?

Jeff Wood (5m 52s):
Oh, maybe I should start asking.

Travis Norvell (5m 53s):
Yeah. Even if you just get a high five it’s worth.

Jeff Wood (5m 55s):
Yeah, yeah. For sure. Well, I was hunting news as I do. And I came across your piece that you wrote in the Christian century about reimagining the church parking lot, which it seems is somewhat of an extension of your book church on the move. When did you first start thinking about the connections between the church and say active transportation?

Travis Norvell (6m 11s):
Oh, well I think I’ve always thought about it. One was just realizing that how many churches have these giant parking lots for one thing. And the other part was, I mean, I’ve lived in towns where the, there wasn’t public transit near the church. I had always thought about, well, wouldn’t it be great if the bus went straight by the church? So those were the kinds of big ideas. And then also, you know, the lake Jay wall Jasper, I don’t know if you know Jake’s work, but Jay lived catty-corner from the church. And he told me that he said, I’m never going to be a part of a church that has a parking lot. And I just always loved that. And so he got me really thinking about a parking lot, you know, just what used to be there, how it transformed the neighborhood when you put up parking lot and have to tear houses down for the temporary storage of an automobile.

Jeff Wood (6m 54s):
Yeah. And you mentioned that the book to the purchasing a property next door, and then how many actually spaces you would get out of that if you would just tore down the building, you get like six spaces or something you said It just doesn’t seem like it’s worth it. 250 square feet of car.

Travis Norvell (7m 7s):
Yeah. And we did kind of the math to get the adequate parking off street to move it into a parking lot. I mean the neighborhood would be destroyed. It wouldn’t be the same neighborhood at all. So w why is this, why are we putting so much energy into a portraits parking lot that really doesn’t service only, I don’t know, maybe a, not even a 10th of the time, it destroyed a neighborhood just for this one. Convenience of being able to park, you know, for a couple of hours one day a week.

Jeff Wood (7m 32s):
And if you have that space, it seems like you can use it for other things as well. I imagine

Travis Norvell (7m 36s):
Exactly. That was the whole part that I started doing. Well, how can we think more strategically about this? If it is the space that we have, what are the fun things you can do with it? And I think back, I tell the story about a basketball court. You know, there was a basketball court in my hometown that suddenly appeared one morning and they put nine foot rims up, which amazed everybody in my hometown. And we lined up for hours to be able to play at this place because you could dunk a basketball. And we just thought that was fantastic. And none of us were ever going to be able to dunk on a regulation room. So we would go down there and play and we’d start playing on Sunday mornings. And the church is this little tiny Methodist church. They got really mad at us and came out and they’d run us off and we’d come back and they’d run us off again.

Travis Norvell (8m 17s):
And rather than engage us, they only saw us as a nuisance. And I thought looking back on it now, I’m like if I had 200 kids voluntarily coming to my church, parking lot to play ball, I would do everything I could to engage them, even just to get, to make a relationship with them because the no on them, it was a gold mine for relationships. And yet they viewed us as a nuisance. And I think that’s what a lot of people think of the parking lot is they view it as this private property that only serves, you know, the church and my thought is, okay, how can the parking lot serve the community? And there’s just so many things you can do with it, like a basketball court, or you can grow food. And these I’m getting ready to go right now. And in about a few minutes, I have to pick up 10 straw bales, a farmer brought him in and we’re going to do straw bale gardening in our backyard, but you can garden now in straw bales in ass, on top of asphalt and have a really nice return on them.

Travis Norvell (9m 9s):
There’s, labyrinths, there’s farmer’s markets. There’s just tons of things you can do in a parking lot.

Jeff Wood (9m 13s):
I think like a fun Halloween kind of get together or something where you have to everybody’s dressing up and having fun, those types of things. Yeah. It just seems like a good idea to think about the other ways you could use the parking lot. It’s interesting to think about how the local neighborhood church has evolved to over time. And, you know, back when many years ago, I imagine when, when people started going to church every Sunday, every Saturday, they would be in a neighborhood. There was no cars, obviously at that point, you know, there are churches everywhere. And so, you know, at the time of this Automobility increase, it seems like, you know, some of the churches changed because of the ability to get to places by car and the suburbanization of churches and all those things. I’m interested in that history a little bit. And it was fun to read about in the book.

Travis Norvell (9m 54s):
Yeah. I mean, the car really changed the nature of the church. And I don’t think the church was really paying attention to it, that all they saw was the benefit. Would that really think about the loss of what happened? So for 1900 years, the church survived and flourished without a car, and then it comes and enabled what I think, what I think happened, the main loss wasn’t able to, the church has become de neighborhood, so that originally are all neighborhood churches. And then all of a sudden they become these destination places where people from outside the community can drive their car in from, from the suburbs and come to this neighborhood church and then go back to their suburban homes and not really have any interaction with the neighborhood that they inhabit. And I think that’s a big loss for churches.

Travis Norvell (10m 34s):
And I think for any community, it’s not just churches to be in this situation. And if you look at the 1950s churches thrive during that time, you know, we have pictures of Judson church with 700 people sitting down on a, in the pews for regular Sunday. But you know, those times were only, it was just one little slice of time. And I think that D neighboring impact really kind of comes out in kind of negative ways now is where, you know, 50 years removed from that and realizing that you don’t even know who your neighbors are and you wonder why churches are having a hard time reconnecting with people and establishing relationships. And I think the car has done that to us in a, in a micro way, in a, in a macro way.

Jeff Wood (11m 14s):
You know, your neighborhood though, you’re out and about. You’re going to the local Hangouts and talking with folks and walking a lot. How much has that impacted how you interact with the community?

Travis Norvell (11m 23s):
Oh, it’s, it’s changed everything about it. You know what I mean? I got a new standard of I’m trying to use it. I don’t know. I’m judging if I have a good week or a bad week, but how many new dogs? I think it’s a pretty good way of doing it. And there’s some people in the neighborhood right now. I don’t know. There’s this one dog and owner Barton buddy. And I don’t know who’s Barton who’s buddy. I just know them together. So I just always say them together, but yeah, eating the neighborhood has changed everything. Paul Tillich once said that the culture asks questions and the church answers them. And I think that’s kind of a, that’s kind of a very privileged place to be. I don’t think the church has any business answering those kinds of questions. I say this, I think one of the problems has been the church is trying to answer questions that no one’s asking.

Travis Norvell (12m 5s):
And part of that is because you’re, you’re not in the neighborhood. You don’t know the people around you and you don’t really know what’s going on. So part of the things I tried to do was just when you’re out biking, walking, taking the bus, I mean, you learn so much more about the neighborhood you learn, what’s on people’s hearts and minds, and you can respond to that. Like, just a couple of days ago, I went to a twins game and I rode the bus home from the twins game back to the house. And a group of guys got on, you know, that were kind of rough looking honestly. And it was kind of people you didn’t want to make too much eye contact with, but I was just sitting there listening to them and their conversations, and they were talking about their brother that they needed to stop by and check on to make sure he was okay. And there was another guy calling his kid to make sure that he had macaroni and cheese for dinner that night.

Travis Norvell (12m 48s):
You know, I think that part of the thing about the car, isn’t it separates you from humanity and you don’t get those kinds of interactions, but when you’re on the bus, when you’re walking, when you’re, when you’re on your bike, you see people at a human speed and that a human level, and you’re really able to engage and hear them in a more authentic way.

Jeff Wood (13m 6s):
It’s basically this, I mean, we’ve had various iterations of this, the walkable neighborhood, the new organism, you know, and now it’s kind of the 15 minute neighborhood is the next term. , it’s kind of like that though. I mean, it’s kind of like that ability to go out from the church and visit all the areas around and get to everything you need to get to in a certain amount of time, if you are willing to do so. If you’re willing to accept that, maybe it might take 10 minutes to walk, but it might be a better trip than it would if two minutes in the car.

Travis Norvell (13m 33s):
Yeah. You know, we’ve, we’ve defined everything by efficiency and for speed, but there’s a lot you can get done, you know, in a walk that you can’t do in a car, you may get there quicker, but look, the things you’re able to accomplish. Now, I just saw on Twitter the day that the Nevada department of transportation chair, she’s been reading the high cost of parking on her commute, her, she takes the bus into work and she’s been reading it. And it’s just a few pages a day, but I think what a fantastic model to have somebody out there doing. Yeah,

Jeff Wood (14m 0s):

Travis Norvell (14m 3s):
No, exactly. Yeah, yeah. Yeah.

Jeff Wood (14m 6s):
Who’s part of your church.

Travis Norvell (14m 7s):
This church is primarily a lot of artists, a lot of writers, social workers, teachers, there are a couple of doctors and a couple of lawyers, but it’s, middle-class kind of service oriented people in service oriented professions.

Jeff Wood (14m 21s):
You know, you talked about how Judson was, you know, there was 700 people, 1200 people, or so, and now it’s maybe 120 or so what’s that kind of shift been like, has it gone from a certain type of parishioner to a different type of parishioner? I’m curious, just kind of the change over time.

Travis Norvell (14m 36s):
I’m sure it has changed. It’s always been a little bit on the weird side of life, which for me is a good thing. It was started as kind of a mission church and they, they literally picked up the church and moved it about three blocks north. So it’s always had this kind of, you know, a little bit of a, we’re a little bit different than everybody else. And we’ve kind of served as the foil and everybody else was trying to maybe things weren’t going so good. They can always blame it on, you know, well, at least we’re not like Judson they’re like that. So we’re happy for that. You know, that

Jeff Wood (15m 5s):
Sounds like a good thing.

Travis Norvell (15m 6s):
It’s a great thing. Yeah. You know, I think if you look, the membership has changed a great question. When I look at those pictures, you know, the 700, if you looked at that picture then, and now I would say we’re probably a lot less Christian than we were then, you know, right now. I mean, I think people in the 1950s would have identified probably strongly as Christian. And right now we’re probably a third would probably call themselves Christian. It’s a lot of people now just really looking for a community. Our church has kind of the last stop that you have on your way out of organized religion. So I think that’s probably where it’s changed. Yeah.

Jeff Wood (15m 38s):
That’s interesting. I mean, it seems like, you know, you can still pull people in from that community aspect. I feel like that’s something that a lot of people are looking for these days.

Travis Norvell (15m 45s):
Yeah, I think so. Yeah. I don’t think we’re a third place, you know, where people are hanging out a lot, but we try to be like maybe the fourth place, that one place maybe you come to. And maybe it’s just the only time of the week that you have a little bit of silence or maybe a laugh or just to kind of reconnect with humanity. That’s an angle that we’re trying to serve. And that seems to have a place in people’s lives.

Jeff Wood (16m 6s):
It’s interesting. You know, I was reading the texts and I felt like it was, you know, you’re talking about your congregation and congregation building, trying to go out into the community. But I also felt like it was also a text for movement building or thinking about action in, in transportation or city building or anything along those lines. It wasn’t just necessarily about religion and the church, but you could use this as a way to kind of connect with people overall. And I felt like I felt connected to it from that standpoint as well.

Travis Norvell (16m 32s):
I mean, that was my big hope. I didn’t know if it really happened though. There’s a writer cut Henry now. And he once said, you know, the personal can be universal. So my hope was that, okay, could, could we take a very particular story and would it be, would it appeal to other people in other walks of life? And I think this book does kind of serve that. It was a really nice review in strong towns about it. That kind of, when it at angle, if you’re not religious, how does this, what is the purpose of this book? And I thought he made a very beautiful case. I’m a little biased That this is a way to get to know people and to get to know your neighborhood. You don’t have to be a church. You could be a nonprofit, you could just be a community organizer. You could just be a neighborhood group, right?

Travis Norvell (17m 13s):
How do we get to know each other? And I think this book kind of gives you a little bit of a recipes on how to do that.

Jeff Wood (17m 18s):
There are recipes in there as well,

Travis Norvell (17m 21s):
Which I can’t figure out why theology books don’t have recipes. All churches have cookbooks and little Bibles, all these stories about eating. So I went there where I went, they included

Jeff Wood (17m 31s):
They’re changing form it changing form. Well, another thing you mentioned and talking about food, there’s slow food. There is slow cities. And then you talk about slow churches. What does that slow part mean in your context?

Travis Norvell (17m 43s):
It just means that if you’re going to make it in the relationship, I don’t want to say business. If you’re going to be in the relationship realm, you can’t rush it at all. And if we are trying to mean Judson trouble, you’re trying to, in a process of renewal, you know, we’re not going to do it overnight. And we have to trust that building relationships is going to take time and you gotta trust that putting in that time is going to pay off eventually. So for me, that’s a slow part of it. And also the slowness of just the speed that we do, things, you know, what if we started thinking of our, how we get to church in a slow manner and who do we meet along the way, and how does that change us? And how can we live into this kind of slow lifestyle in the midst of so much speed and efficiency around this?

Jeff Wood (18m 26s):
You know, another connected thing to that is that idea that for incremental change, it might be two to 3% a year. And you know, this is something that you mentioned as well, and it seems to be, that’s what people can handle. Whereas if you push too far, you’ll get a lot of backlash. And I’m curious where you came up with that number, or if that was just something that came out of your understanding of change, or is it something that’s kind of universally known?

Travis Norvell (18m 48s):
Well, I’ve had to, like some other politicians respond to this. It’s something that’s used there. I came from an environmental psychologist, Christine managed, she teaches over at McAllister college. We were having coffee one time and she kind of just told me this. She kind of threw that number out of there, shared it with me. And I started thinking back about, you know, throughout my life and, and pastoral experiences. And I’m like, she’s exactly right. If you try too much change at lunch, people react negatively to it. But if you do too little change at once, people react negatively to it. So if you can find this little sweet spot of pushing people, but not pushing them over, I find it that people react pretty well to that. And then when you look over a long time, you know, if you, if you’re moving the needle two to 3% a year, I mean 10 years, you move things 30%, that’s a gigantic leap.

Jeff Wood (19m 36s):
And for your parishioners too, I mean, if you mentioned, say, you know, taking your bike or riding the bus and thinking about that two to 3% change, how does that impact them? And how has their response to that when you first start talking about it? Cause I imagine that in my experience, anyway, when you first start talking to folks about this stuff, they’re, they’re a little bit hesitant and they, they might get a little defensive about their automobile and being worried about transit and biking and walking and all those things. But over time, it kind of slowly sinks in. How does that go on with the folks that you talk to on a, on a weekly basis?

Travis Norvell (20m 6s):
I would say it this way, you know, I have been reluctant to be aggressive or even offer it as a viable, alternative, you know, taking your bike, walking busing as part of our life of faith. I didn’t, I didn’t want to feel judgmental. I mean, so many times when you mentioned this, people just automatically react negatively to you. And I just didn’t want that to have that as part of our relationship. So I just started riding and wanted to see what would happen. So I just started telling stories from the pulpit or in meetings. Hey, you know, when I was on the bus today, this happened, or I was riding my bike and I met so-and-so or, you know, I was walking down the street and this happened. And then, you know, the stories, people start craving them. Like, then I might get like, who’d you meet this week?

Travis Norvell (20m 47s):
Or what happened this week? You know, those kinds of things. And so, and then people started thinking, well, you get a few people like that kind of saddle up to you and be like, you know, I really want to ride my bike, but I don’t know what route to go from my house to the church. And then you’ve started realizing that, you know, a lot of this is really practical stuff. So that led me to think, okay, it’s not just about talking about this, but okay. Let’s can we do some workshops on how do you ride the bus? You know, we make so many assumptions that everybody knows how to ride the bus. And a lot of people don’t because they’re so intimidated by it. And if you, if you’re here in Minneapolis, the numbering system makes no sense at all. You know, there’s the four of the 18 and the five, which are all going north, south on parallel lines.

Travis Norvell (21m 27s):
But why is the 18 between the four and the five? You know what I mean? I don’t know. And people ask me that and I’m like, I can’t tell you the answer to that. You know, I just know where they go or people want to know, you know, again about their bikes. And then they tell you that, you know, their bikes not working well. And you realize, I mean, most bike repairs is the two things, right? I mean, just pump up your tires and oil change. If you can do those two things, you can get pretty well, most places. So it’s just a little bit about just basic bike maintenance or just helping people. You know, I saw that there’s a Muslim cyclist club in Birmingham, UK, and outside of Friday prayers, they have bike racks, you know, not the bike racks, but the things you put your bikes on to work on.

Jeff Wood (22m 8s):
I don’t know the name of it, but they’re Jackson by checks.

Travis Norvell (22m 11s):
Everybody knows what I’m talking about, right. Them outside of the mosque. And when people come in, they put their bike online and these mechanics do a little tune-up and they teach people how to do it. And then they go in for Friday prayers and they come out and they have their bikes ready. I think you are in churches doing those kind of things or synagogues or, you know, any, any other kind of communities of faith. They kind of encourage people to do that. That’s been one, the one thing changed is trying to look more on the practical side and then encourage people from that realm. And that’s where I started to see the change really starts to take place is where people start asking me, how do I rent a bike? I mean, how, sorry, how do I ride the bus? What’s the best bike route to get here? Or if you were going to walk from a to B, how would you go, you know, those kinds of things or are they, and I just make myself available, Hey, if you want to ride your bike or take the bus or walk, Hey, just call me and I’ll, I’ll meet you there.

Travis Norvell (22m 59s):
And we’ll, we’ll find it together.

Jeff Wood (23m 0s):
It’s interesting how much routine plays into that. You know, people understand a way to do something. And so it’s harder to change to fix up something new, think about a new way to do things. And I think they’ve found that the best time to get people to think about a new way of traveling is when they move to a new house and they’re reorienting themselves. And so the routine that they had maybe at their old place doesn’t matter anymore. And so you can kind of start to think about what you can do to actually get people, to make different choices. Or if you know, the choice, that’s the best choice might be a different choice. And it’s interesting to think about how transit agencies or anybody for that matter. If somebody moves, one of the best things they might be able to do is send new house at bus pass or, you know, send them a bike map or something along those lines.

Jeff Wood (23m 41s):
And it might make them think about their travel patterns. It’s just really interesting to think about how, you know, routine is really something hard to change.

Travis Norvell (23m 48s):
Yeah. And here’s where religion plays into it, right? We are, we already have religious seasons where people are just supposed to take on new patterns and new behaviors. We’re filming us, keeping us on good Friday. We’re just the season of lent about the end. We had 40 days to take on a new habit. And a lot of people you’re here in Minneapolis that started the 30 days of biking for the month of April. You know what I mean? Can you get people to change habits? You might also about use using the religious seasons that are available to you. And I think that’s where I’m starting to see some other churches and other faith communities start to maybe integrate their transit choices in the religious calendar.

Jeff Wood (24m 23s):
Do you have a new habit? Is that a tough question?

Travis Norvell (24m 28s):
Well, it’s been fascinating this winter. I don’t know if you know the word saving us by Katherine Hayles, she’s a climatologist and she had this wonderful line in there that said you have to offer people a viable option. You’ll never get anywhere, shaming, someone to make a change. She said, make, try to make, give them a viable option. So I was listening to that and that was right at the time it was in January and I was listening to the Minnesota public radio. They were given the traffic report and semi Jackson, iPhone 35 E or you know, or what? The one that I love is like car fire on two 80. I mean, I don’t like that. Somebody’s car caught on fire, but I’m just amazed that there’s so many car fires every morning. So I emailed the NPR person, her name’s Kathy where’s her.

Travis Norvell (25m 9s):
And I just said, Hey, Kathy, if I provide you bike commute reports, weather conditions, would you, would you share them? And she said, sure, sure. I’ll do it. And she thought it was, we both thought it’d be kind of maybe a two or three day thing. And it took off like hotcakes here in Minneapolis. And people even made it as part of pledge week. You know, that we give bike with commute reports. And I got emails from other biking communities in Ireland, in Venezuela, in Mexico from, I got a couple of people in Vancouver. Somebody was trying to shame someone in the Milwaukee saying if in Minneapolis can do it, why can’t Milwaukee? That’s been my habit. It’s just every morning I get up, I ride my bike. I look at the situations and then come back and make myself.

Travis Norvell (25m 51s):
And now about 10 other people share their bike commute reports from around the twin city.

Jeff Wood (25m 55s):
So how does that work? How does that work when you do a bike commute report? So when you ride your route that you usually ride or maybe a, you know, a street over or something along those lines, and then you say, okay, well there’s some black ice here or there’s problem with the hasn’t been plowed. That type of thing.

Travis Norvell (26m 7s):
Exactly. Yeah. And at first for me, like, because of the pandemic, my work schedules change. So I do it like, you know, it’s kinda like I’m in the habit, right? This is my second breakfast. Now this is my second commute. So I will do an early commute. I’ll just go out and assess situations. And then I’ll come back and say, Hey, it looks like, you know, some of the bike paths are clear. The bike lanes have crud on them, you know, be wary of, you know, a lot of major intersections, that kind of stuff. And another people will commute in, I mean, who have been, who commuted in that morning, we’ll then say, Hey, you know, on the, on the Shelby bridge avenue bridge, there’s lots of ice be careful. Somebody else will say on the Hiawatha trail, there’s, you know, the small lake that’s frozen over, you know, watch out. So it’s kinda like that. Yeah.

Jeff Wood (26m 44s):
That’s awesome. Well, churches have budgets. Families have budgets, businesses have budgets and they make decisions based on what they can fit into the budget. How does transportation for the church fit into the budget equation?

Travis Norvell (26m 57s):
Oh, you know, Amy, I’m not afraid to say this. You know, when, when I came to the church, we were in debt pretty bad. You know, we had some deaths in the family and those, those kinds of things, and, you know, some unforeseen financial circumstances and it seemed kind of bizarre to sell the car in the middle of all that. But that was probably the healthiest financial decision myself and our, in our family made. And then I started adding it up. How much am I? How much were we spending per month on transit? And it was mind blowing. And after about 18 months, you know, my family and I, for the first time in our GS, in our family life and our marriage life, we were, debt-free all from just, you know, not having a car. You know, how many times do you talk to people? And they say, well, you know, I’d like to take the bus, but you know, but it’s two 50 a ride or, you know, the, the bus passes 40 bucks a month.

Travis Norvell (27m 42s):
I don’t know. You hear those kinds of arguments all the time, but now I understand that. But now I’m like, yeah, but if you took the car out of the picture and you’re not paying for gas, you’re not paying for maintenance, you’re not paying for insurance. You know, there’s also just like the mental health part of it. And the health part. I mean, we had a gym membership for crying out loud and we would drive our car to the gym and then go work out. And now we’re like, well, we ride our bikes. That’s our workout. And what do they call it? Accidental exercise. I think there was a term for it going from a to B riding your bike. W we get a lot of, we get a lot of steps in, we get a lot of calories burn.

Jeff Wood (28m 14s):
There’s that funny picture that a lot of folks show at conferences that are planning conferences, which is like the 24 hour fitness. And then they have the escalator going up to the, to the 24 hour fitness. Pretty good.

Travis Norvell (28m 24s):

Jeff Wood (28m 24s):
You know, your kids have followed you as well. I was interested to hear about your allowances and especially when, when they turn 16, that was really fascinating to me. Especially as you know, in my family, basically when we went to college after your first year, dad would help us by kind of half, half a car. You know, we’d have to pay work through the summers and we’d pay for the other half to get around, but we were away from home. And so it was a way to get around in a suburban kind of environment. But yours is, you know, way more, I don’t know if progressive is the right word, but more active transportation focused.

Travis Norvell (28m 54s):
Yeah. I had a high school teacher that used to kind of burritos. She’d be like, okay, why aren’t you getting a job? And somebody would say, so I can pay for the car. And they were like, okay, why do you have the car? So I get to the job. And she was like, do you not see the fallacy in this kind of stuff stuck in my head? And so the kids are getting close to 16 and I can, you know, I hear the chatter and the emphasis on the car. And I’m like, okay, look, we have one car. We have a van between the five of us to do our errands. If something happens to the van, that’s it. We don’t have the wherewithal to get something else. And I really don’t want you to drive him like, you know, all your friends around in his van. And then they’re like, okay. And I said, look, here’s the deal I’m making.

Travis Norvell (29m 34s):
And if you can turn it down, that’s fine. But if you accept it, here’s what it will be. I will buy you a new bike when you’re, we’ll get you a bus card, we’ll keep it fully funded. And I went to the insurance agent and said, okay, what is the monthly addition to that, to our bill? And he gave us the number. And I said, okay, I will just give that to you in cash in a month. And that’s the deal. And they all took it hands down. They were like, I’ll take the deal, dad. So when I turned 16, they got a fully funded bus card that was filled every month, they got a new bike. And then they got about, I don’t know what ended up being like 50 or 67, 70 bucks, extra allowance. And the funny part of that, it was, they ended up being the most free kids of all their friends.

Travis Norvell (30m 16s):
They weren’t tied down to when was the car available? They were able to do things that no one else could do. And the story I tell them, the book is, you know, my son Glenn build my oldest son. There was a March in Minneapolis against gun violence. And so he was part of it and he was marching downtown. And then he gets to city hall and the March is over and everybody else’s heading home. And then the mayor comes out and says, Hey, we’re going to invite everybody who wants to stay to come in and have a conversation with the city council members. And we can talk about gun violence in schools. And all of his friends said, well, we got to go home. You know, the cars it’s parked the parking meter. And Glenn’s like, Hey, I’m going to just stay here and I’ll catch the bus home. And he was able to do things like that all the time. And here’s the thing that they’re in college now, my two oldest and they still don’t have a driver’s license, so,

Jeff Wood (31m 2s):
Oh, that’s awesome. Is there anything you got from writing the book and putting all of your thoughts down in one place? I mean, imagine that you’ve put them down in separate places, but I’m wondering if there’s something that revealed itself to you as you were putting this together?

Travis Norvell (31m 13s):
Well, one thing was just, you know, my emo usually is like, how hard can it be to do this? You know, when I started something in, I realized, well, this is a lot harder than I ever thought. That was one thing I learned that writing a book is a lot tougher than I thought, but I think I was more energized by putting all this together. And it was during the pandemic. I’d started this, I’d submitted the proposal before the pandemic started. And I thought, well, I felt pretty good about it. And then after a month or two in the pandemic, I started wondering, is there even going to be faith communities to return to when all this was through pretty depressed about it kind of hopeless. And a friend of mine just said, Hey, just start writing and see what happens. So I, you know, I just kept gathering all this information and writing it. And I felt I came out of when I finished this book more hopeful than I’ve probably ever been and kind of seeing it in its totality that, you know, the church can be more localized than it can reach it to neighborhood.

Travis Norvell (32m 4s):
Then it can be part of the neighborhood again. And that really energized me. And I felt a lot more hopeful seeing it together in this way than I had been like kinda the disparate parts, then just had to kind of strewn all over my office.

Jeff Wood (32m 16s):
And what’s been the response so far. What have folks said back to you about the book and about reading it and thinking about it?

Travis Norvell (32m 21s):
Well, the response has been better than I thought. I mean, I thought, okay, my mom will probably buy a copy and my sister will buy a copy, you know, but there’s been actually quite a few copies sold. And the parts that’s really interested me is that it’s not all been church people. You mentioned the church parking lot. I got more responses from that article from non people. Then I’ve got from anything. And that really surprised me. I wasn’t expecting that at all. The best emails that I’ve got so far have been people that said, Hey, your book inspired me to get on the bike. And I oiled my chain and I I’m riding at someone else’s, but that they set up a little table outside their church and they’re going to have a they’re having coffee. They just put out a coffee pot and they had a couple of chairs. And they’re just going to see who walks by and they’re going to start talking to them.

Travis Norvell (33m 3s):
Or another person said, you know, I used to take the bus, but since I retired, I haven’t taken the bus. And I’m like, why am I not taking the bus more? So they’re going to start taking the bus. So that’s when I hear those things, I’m like, okay, we’re onto something here.

Jeff Wood (33m 15s):
What’s next for you? You’ve written the book. You have, you know, all of your work that you’re doing. I imagine you’re pretty busy. It seems like reading it. What’s next. Do you have another book in store or?

Travis Norvell (33m 23s):
I have a children’s book that I’m working on. I told him that your book, Mr. Rogers, who I think is the patron Saint of urbanism and

Jeff Wood (33m 34s):
Yeah, the neighborhood trolley. I got that in Pittsburgh when I was at a revolution, a friend gave it to me.

Travis Norvell (33m 38s):
Yeah. I got a story from a former parishioner who told me that she was in her. I don’t know how old she was. Maybe in her forties, she was sick. She didn’t have kids. And she got, all she could do is lay on the couch and somebody would turn the TV on and just leave it on that channel all day. And she said, it was Mr. Rogers would play like three or four times during the day. And it just, it healed her body and soul. She said, just by watching this kid show all the time. So I’d love hearing his stories. But Mr. Rogers in this person named Henry now and who was a theologian, they were friends. And they just had such a relationship that I want to write a book. I’m writing a children’s book about their friendship. So I’m hoping to still work in bicycling in the book, but there’s a couple of pictures I have of the other part I’ve been thinking about, okay, what’s next.

Travis Norvell (34m 21s):
Now, when I wrote this book, the 15 minutes city was obviously popular, but I think it’s been more popularized in the past three years. And I’m hearing a lot, I’m getting some feedback from some more stories of people saying, okay, how do we be more connected to our community? I don’t know. I’m thinking about, I’m just been collecting the stories I’m gathering so far. What is the church and the move look like? I think that might be something I’m just having fun hearing this stuff.

Jeff Wood (34m 44s):
The 15 minute church

Travis Norvell (34m 46s):
Mean that’s an ancient. I mean, that was what a parish model was. I’m not talking about anything new, I’m just repeating things that are, maybe you’ve been hidden for a couple hundred years.

Jeff Wood (34m 55s):
You mentioned a Notre Dom burning down. I was actually in Paris that day.

Travis Norvell (34m 58s):

Jeff Wood (34m 59s):
Which is pretty crazy. We got on a train and went north. And then we went, when we got to our hotel, we saw the news and it was obviously a national strategy, but reading about it since then and national geographic and other things that I come across, it’s interesting to see how much the churches, it’s a national icon, not necessarily as much of a religious icon as much anymore, but it’s something that people in France relate to as something of national pride, as opposed to maybe religion. And it’s really interesting to see that maybe that transformation over time and thinking about how the local parishioners, you know, offices and churches worked in that time period and how, you know, there was this basically this mega center, you know, in central Paris. It’s interesting to think about how kind of churches have evolved over as well.

Travis Norvell (35m 38s):
Yeah. I think there are a little Notre doms all over the place in neighborhoods. Some neighborhood churches kind of fulfill that role. Even if people never consider themselves as religious people or even attend a service there, it still holds a little bit of significance in their life. If anything, it prevents a parking lot from being there, right? Hopefully, or it’s a place where there’s some silence or maybe they like the bills or there’s some music that’s offered. You know, we, we took a walking pilgrimage from Melrose to the holy island in Scotland and Northern England. And what I was amazed at was just, you know, all these little neighborhoods, well village churches, along the way, they operated more as community centers. You know, the doors were always open and they had a coffee pot always available and people would just go and sit in them.

Travis Norvell (36m 22s):
When we went to new castle, it was every day at noon. And there was these organ concerts and I would go and talk to people and none of them were there for the religious part. They just wanted to hear the music. I think there’s places for that.

Jeff Wood (36m 32s):
Yeah. When, I mean, when I was in France, there was so many amazing stained glass images and it was funny. We were, we were talking about it and the stained glass is actually kind of like the original comic book. Right. And it was just trying to explain religion to the folks who might not have learned how to read yet. And so it’s just like, this is the story and it was beautifully done. And it’s really fascinating to think about it that way. Right. As opposed to just like this art, it’s actually a story to be told to folks about their religion

Travis Norvell (36m 58s):
And rich symbolism all the way through. Yeah.

Jeff Wood (37m 1s):
Very beautiful. Well, Travis, where can folks find the book if they want to get a copy?

Travis Norvell (37m 5s):
I mean, you can buy directly from the publisher Jetson, press.com. And luckily it’s now ND bound and bookshop. You can find those. I’d rather, you go to a, your local bookshop, if you can order it through them, it is available through the mega Marx, but I prefer you to stick to the Judson press or the local shop, if you can.

Jeff Wood (37m 24s):
That’s a good way to go. I did see that it’s actually on sale on bookshops. So folks want to go there and get it.

Travis Norvell (37m 29s):
Oh, even better. Look at that.

Jeff Wood (37m 30s):
Yeah. As of today, I don’t know how long that lasts, but we’ll try this. Thanks for joining us. We really appreciate your time.

Travis Norvell (37m 37s):
They’ll hit wiring that I really appreciate the work you do. And just glad to be a part of the conversation. Thank you.

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