Engineers Make Roads, Too

CrossOver reflection for Week 18 • Beginning March 31, 2019
We Make the Road by Walking, Chapter 31

Rev. Daniel Wilson-Fey


During this Crossover Year, we are reading Brian McLaren’s book, We Make the Road by Walking. When I heard that title, one of my first thoughts was “no we don’t—one makes a road by doing a topographic survey where they want to build the road, drafting design plans, producing a cost estimate, putting it out to bid, hiring a contractor, and then finally building the road according to plan. That’s how you make a road. 

I used to work for consulting engineers doing this kind of work. If we were going to build a road, we didn’t just go out and walk. We took measurements locating all current topographic features of the land and existing improvements, both horizontally and vertically. We would then design the road we wanted to build, specifying the alignment, width, and grade, calculating the radius and superelevation of curves, making runoff calculations, designing drainage, and indicating the type of surface for the finished roadway.

One of the most important things was knowing what soil was under the proposed roadway, how much sub-base was needed, and how it was to be compacted. We superimposed the designed road over the existing topography, calculating cuts and fills, establishing ditches and shoulders and estimating material volumes. We did all of this and more in order to make the road.  

We have known that General Conference 2019 would be a watershed moment of crossing over from what was to what will be. We suspected that The United Methodist Church would not look or feel the same to most people after GC2019. Since the close of General Conference, as Treasurer of the OR-ID Annual Conference, I have been receiving many questions from people wanting to “get the lay of the land”—inquiring about the existing topography of the Conference and denomination’s financial commitments. I welcome such inquiry.

Some people and groups I know are considering designing a whole new denomination. Some say “I’m not going anywhere,” but want to cross over together into a Promised Land they’ve always envisioned and lived. Someone has to build the road to get from here to there, wherever “there” is. These are the engineers among us, asking the practical questions that go into road design. 

Some of those design questions appear in McLaren’s book in this week’s reading of Chapter 31, titled “The Choice is Yours.” McLaren points out the benefit of the house builder who made plans for building a house because the wise builder “doesn’t just hearJesus’ message; he [sic] translates it into action.”

McLaren’s point is that Jesus’ words in Matthew 7, part of the Sermon on the Mount, challenge us to move beyond mere interest and agreement to commitment and action. We are invited to consider all we have heard (the topography), and “translate it into our way of living, our way of being alive.” We are called to build a community of lovers who are just, kind, and humble.

You have heard the words of Jesus long enough. You know where he’s headed, and it includes all. You may help build the way to get there, or you may walk the road once it’s designed and built by others, or you may decide to walk a different way. We each have our role to play. As McLaren’s chapter title offers, “the choice is yours.”

I’m an engineer at heart. I ask a lot of questions. I love producing topo maps of what is existing, to aid us in getting where we want to go and in developing what we are called to build. I hear and need the dreamers, the prophets, the deciders, the vision-casters. All of us are needed if we are to get from here to there. I am glad to be part of this team in this uncertain Crossover time. I have faith all will work out as it needs to, no matter what our community of faith ends up looking like.

The choice is mine; the choice is yours.


Rev. Daniel Wilson-Fey serves as Conference Treasurer for the Oregon-Idaho Conference of The United Methodist Church.

Comments (2)

  • Gwendolyn B Kimball

    I have appreciated the thought-filled blogs I have received for the CrossOver to Life thru week 18. Where are the blogs since then? We have not received any blogs since then. i am used to receiving them each week. Has my name been dropped from the e-mail list? Have the blogs been discontinued? They enrich our weekly discussions.
    Participants in our journey of “We Make the Road by Walking” started with Advent last year and are finding it very stimulating, thought provoking and thank you for recommending it.
    Gwen Kimball, member of New Meadows, Idaho UMC

    • Greater NW Communications

      Hi Gwen,

      To keep the study on track with the Christian year, we had a gap week. Tomorrow (4/12) you’ll have an email with several new posts for Holy Week.

      Patrick Scriven
      PNW Conference

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