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Does the word ‘chapel’ scare drivers away from truck stop chaplains?

BOWMANVILLE, Ont. - Canadians have earned a worldwide reputation as an inherently friendly, polite and open people, but be prepared to watch all of that cheery warmth quickly turn into cold front if y...


BOWMANVILLE, Ont. – Canadians have earned a worldwide reputation as an inherently friendly, polite and open people, but be prepared to watch all of that cheery warmth quickly turn into cold front if you start asking questions about politics or religion. The latter of the two touchy subjects has found its way to many truck stops across Ontario in the form of Open Road Chapels (see pg. 50 for the full story on Open Road Chapels). The non-profit chapel chain offers a listening ear for drivers looking to talk about both spiritual and practical concerns, but is the group’s religious affiliation keeping some drivers away? Truck News stepped out of its comfort zone and stopped by the Fifth Wheel Truck Stop in Bowmanville, Ont. to ask drivers if the word ‘chapel’ keeps them from conversing with chaplains at Open Road Chapels.

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Claude Hamell, a long-time driver with Nova Steel in Montreal, Que., says he’s heard of roadside chapels, but doesn’t know anyone who actually goes to them or would even be interested in such a thing.

“For me, it has no interest at all,” he says. “Maybe some guys like to have some place to talk, and that’s okay, but not me.”

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Jim Chynoweth, a 20-year veteran from Whitby, Ont., has never spoken with a truck stop chaplain, but says having such a place available is a good idea.

“It’s good to have a place like that. You’ve got to vent somewhere,” he says, admitting that if he was having problems, he would probably go. “I’m lucky enough to have pretty good relationships, so I wouldn’t normally need to go someplace like that.”

Chynoweth says that the word ‘chapel’ may prevent some people from approaching ORC’s offices, but a lot of drivers just prefer to either keep to themselves or complain over the CB anyway.

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Brian Mathieu, a driver with Best Transfer in Guelph, Ont., has never actively sought out a truck stop chaplain, but has conversed with one at another ORC location.

“I’ve spoken with the fellow who runs the Dorchester (Open Road Chapel) location and he’s a very friendly fellow,” he says. “I’ve sat and I’ve chatted with him; nothing too serious. They’re very easy-going people.”

Though the word ‘chapel’ doesn’t throw him off, he still thinks the majority of drivers might find it a turn-off.

“It’s just my opinion, but I think it might turn a lot of people off. More than 50%, I would think.”

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Ed Bryant, also a driver with Best Transfer, say he knows Elmer Martin, the chaplain at Open Road Chapel’s Bowmanville location, very well. Bryant grew up the son of a missionary Baptist pastor and soon learned that he and Martin shared the same faith.

“I connected with Elmer because I realized there was something different about him. I could see something different in him and I hope people see something different in me,” he says.

Bryant also believes ORC’s ministry can serve as a helpful tool for believers and non-believers alike.

“I think the Open Road ministry is very valuable, not only to spread a message to those who might not understand, but also for those out here that have a faith and just need some encouragement,” he says. “Truckers deal with a bunch of stuff during the week that can really mess us up by the end of it.”

For Bryant, the word ‘chapel’ serves as an eye-opener to see how other drivers respond to it.

“I don’t see people so much turned off by it as just not understanding it. It gives me a chance to look and see where they’re coming from,” he says.


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