School Bus Driving: A Lesson in Practical Theology

The Rev'd Fr. Chad McCharles OSBCn poses with his school bus.
By on May 1, 2022
Dawn Gardy

Father Chad McCharles OSBCn has decided to go back to school, twice a day, five days a week to be exact, and it is not for a theology refresher. At least, that was not his original intention! When the Transport Supervisor of the Beautiful Plains School Division approached Father Chad early in 2020 to inquire if he would be interest in training to be a bus driver, the priest thought he would indeed like to explore the opportunity. Throughout North America there is a mounting shortage of qualified school bus drivers, and this is no different here in Manitoba, especially in rural areas. Chad knew this to be the case and liked the idea of helping out where there was such need. 

The first part of the process was to speak with Bishop William to acquire permission to move ahead with the endeavour, which was an easy “yes” from the bishop, as the bishop was quick to point out that it was a real opportunity for community connection in Neepawa and area, and for the Anglican cleric to live out his vows to serve those in need. 

Once Father Chad entered the lengthy, in-depth, highly detailed, multi-stage process of qualifying to be a bus driver, he was quickly reminded of another depth of meaning to this endeavour, one from his childhood. As a farm boy who grew up South of Shoal Lake, riding the school bus was a daily routine for Father Chad, but one that was kept from being monotonous by his bus driver, Mr. George Isaak, or Pastor Isaak as he was known in the Shoal Lake Baptist Church and wider community. Mr. Isaak was a very kind, friendly, good humoured man, who always had time to listen to Chad’s boyhood ramblings when he would stand behind him and chat away as one of the last kids on the bus route each afternoon. Through this relationship, Pastor Isaak invited Chad to attend Pioneer Kid’s Club at the Shoal Lake Baptist Church one evening each month, which turned out to be one of the key steppingstones towards the priesthood for Chad. Mr. Isaak’s friendly smile and daily greetings came to embody Christian love for the young farm boy, although Chad wouldn’t realize it until stepping onto a school bus years later to train as a driver. It was this realization that galvanized Father Chad’s decision to complete his school bus driver’s certification, and he has been driving the big yellow buses ever since. 

His parish, Neepawa United-Anglican Shared Ministry, has supported him in this endeavour too, realizing that having their Minister on the school bus allows for important community connections with children, parents, teachers, and division staff, all of which stands the faith community in good stead to be better able to reach out through those connections to share and live out the Gospel. Jesus got into boats with fishermen, into the temple with the faithful, into the country with the crowds, and came alongside the suffering in the streets, all to share the Good News. It is this model from Jesus that drives Father Chad to climb the steps of the bus each day and be the first and last encounter each child has with the school system, offering them a warm greeting, smiling eyes behind a mask, and a wish for a good night at the end of each school day. All of which leaves him feeling like he has received more than he has given, emblematic of the peace and perfect freedom promised to us by Christ if we choose to give freely of ourselves. 

This is the best theology lesson Father Chad has learned since seminary, he says, as it has remined him that it is through such simple, everyday acts that we learn and live radical Christian love. The wheels on the bus go round and round, and we as Christians carry the love of God in Christ to the world as it goes round and round, through simple, everyday acts that transport us ever nearer each other and God. 


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