nervous man, strange places to confess

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As any good Roman Catholic will tell you, checking the sacrament of penance (better known as confession or reconciliation) off the “to do” list doesn't necessarily require getting all gussied up for a trip to Sunday mass to be forgiven of any minor — or, gulp, mortal — sin.

While confessing to your transgressions in whispered tones behind the partition of a confessional or in a reconciliation room of a church is the traditional method of observing this crucial sacrament of healing, technically you can confess to your sins and apologize for your mistakes anywhere as long as your heart is in the right place: in an elevator, in line at the DMV, online, on an airplane, etc. Still, many prefer to own up to their wrongdoings in the presence of an ordained minister or priest,  be it at a highway truck stop, in an airport or from the back of a New York City yellow cab. Below, we’ve rounded up six somewhat unexpected places to come clean and seek forgiveness.

taxi, confession

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The back of a cab

In which “Taxicab Confessions” takes on a whole new meaning …

Joseph Djan, a 52-year-old evangelical minister who moonlights as a New York City yellow cab driver, recently made headlines for operating what he calls “a church on wheels.” Essentially, it’s the Christian hip-hop that Djan blares from his radio (he’ll respectfully turn it off if requested to do so) that prompts penitent passengers to open up and share their deepest troubles. And to be clear, the Ghana native and father of three discloses his liturgical training to fares before they’ve started candidly spilling the beans. He tells the New York Post: “There is a saying that you don’t have to go to church to be religious. I would prefer they go to church on Sunday. But we can have church right in here!”

And when he’s not offering up spiritual guidance and sharing the gospel to (willfully) captive customers or studying for his master's degree in theology, Djan spends his time providing food, clothing and monetary contributions to the less fortunate through his church, Holy Track Outreach Ministry in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn.


drive-through, confession

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A drive-through window

Although Fr. Bob McGuire’s 2011 plans to open what was described as Australia’s very first “drive-through confessional” turned out, not too surprisingly, to be one rather clever April Fool’s Day stunt that was conceived to draw attention to his parish’s low attendance numbers while bringing the church “up to speed with modern life,” you have to hand it to the prank-happy South Melbourne priest for seriously thinking outside of the (Jack in the) box.

McGuire’s “60-second car wash for the soul” was to include a numbered menu board and corresponding smartphone app listing the seven cardinal sins — lust, gluttony, greed, laziness, wrath, envy and pride — along with a refreshing spritz of rose water and a light system indicating whether a motorist’s confessed sins had been forgiven by McGuire or another priest on drive-through duty. A blinking green light signaled that the sinning driver in question had been forgiven for “ordering” a super-sized number four, for example. “When you’re driving out you’ll be as clean as a whistle,” Fr. McGuire explained to the Herald Sun.


Alaskan cruise ship, confession

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A cruise ship

For a majority of cruise-goers both newlywed and nearly dead, embarking on a carefree luxury vessel-bound vacation is all about cutting loose, pigging out and leaving all your land-based worries behind. In other words, cruises don’t exactly scream sacrament of penance and reconciliation.

However, a number of these indulgence-heavy floating mini-cities do indeed offer religious services held in dedicated chapels — or unused lounges — for passengers, crew and staff who seek guidance from a nondenominational chaplain, a rabbi or a Catholic priest. Apostles of the Sea of the United States of America (AOS USA) operates a cruise ship priest program that supplies heavily vetted men of the cloth to cruise ships (talk about a cushy ecclesiastic gig) where they provide quality sacramental and pastoral care including “confidential counseling and spiritual guidance.” But seriously, just think about some of the cruise-specific confessions that these seafaring fathers must be subjected to: bogarting the anti-diarrhea meds, sneaking in contraband booze, cutting in line at the midnight buffet, covering another man’s bikini-clad wife on the Lido deck ...


18-wheeler, truck stop, confession

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A truck stop

Aside from a hot shower (free with a $50 fuel purchase!), a place to wash dirty underpants, and a hearty chicken fried steak supper from the Country Pride, long-haul truckers — a notoriously unfussy bunch — don’t really require all that much in the way of amenities when stopped over for a spell at an interstate travel center. But what about truckers who are in desperate need of spiritual counsel that they just can’t get by jabber-jawing over the CB (or smartphone) with fellow over-the-roaders?

This is where trucker-turned-pastor the Rev. Joseph H. Hunter comes in. Founded at a truck stop outside Atlanta as a Bible study group for word of God-seeking truck drivers in the early 1980s, Hunter’s “step-one” trans-denominational organization, Truckstop Ministries, Inc. now operates freestanding chapels at over 75 truck stops across the country, from the Armpit to the Circle and everywhere in between. In addition to portable truck stop chapels that are housed in trailers and predominately staffed by ministers and volunteers from local Southern Baptist congregations, TMI also offers a missionary driver program, Bible study correspondence courses and a 24-hour trucker prayer hotline.


airport, confession

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An airport

Boarding pass printed: Check. Security gate conquered: Check. Connecting flight gate confirmed: Check. Snacks and bottled water bought: Check. Xanax consumed: Check. A year’s worth of transgressions confessed to a Catholic priest stationed at a tiny chapel tucked away inside of Terminal 4: Check.

Yes indeed, as explored in a recent piece published by the Associated Press, most major airports across the globe have at least one interfaith chapel — New York’s Kennedy Airport has four distinct chapels including International Synagogue, Christ for the World Chapel, and Our Lady of the Skies Roman Catholic Chapel which offers Mass, Holy Communion, reconciliation, and even baptisms and weddings — staffed by full or part-time chaplains assigned to provide religious counsel to travelers, airline crew members, security and airport employees. Like priests and pastors assigned to the cruise boat circuit, placement at an airport is “highly sought-after” and “considered glamorous” due to the crippling stress “excitement” and “unpredictability” that defines these bustling, self-contained mini-cities.

And as pointed out by the AP, these airport-bound chaplains don’t always stay put in their respective chapels waiting patiently for weary travelers to come to them seeking refuge. They often roam the terminals, offering friendly assistance but never proselytizing, and on occasion, are strategically placed in the vicinity of beleaguered gate agents during inclement weather when delays are high and tempers are flaring. Because really, are you going to stomp your feet and call that Continental agent every name in the book when a priest is standing 5 feet away? Probably not.


Las Vegas gambling, confession

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Las Vegas

While the fact that there’s a Roman Catholic Church located smack dab in the excess-clogged heart of the Las Vegas Strip may come across as a touch curious, it’s also mega-convenient. After all, where else are good Catholics supposed to seek forgiveness and get everything off of their chests — the gambling, the drinking, the dancing, the lusting, the swinging, the buffet-gorging, the $1 bill shedding — before hopping on a plane at McCarran and resuming their sin-lite lifestyles? 

While the Paul Revere Williams-designed Guardian Angel Cathedral isn’t the only Catholic parish in Sin City, its location on Forgive Me Father Blvd. Cathedral Way is the closest to the Strip, which, naturally, makes it popular with tourists in need of a JC-centric breather between running amok and committing all those flagrant transgressions. In addition to what we’re guessing is a very busy confessional area, the Guardian Angel Cathedral — the striking A-frame style structure was built in the 1960s with mob money and serves as current home to the Las Vegas Diocese — is also a popular spot for non-quickie Saturday weddings presided over by a priest, not an Elvis impersonator. And because this is Las Vegas, penance-seekers and casual visitors to this modernist house of worship can also pick up religious souvenirs at the in-house gift shop or simply sit in on a rousing musical performance during Sunday Mass.

For those who would rather not set foot inside a Catholic Church, Las Vegas Sinners is the go-to website for visitors looking to anonymously confess any venial indiscretions committed while in town.

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Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

6 unconventional places to confess your sins
You don't need a traditional Catholic Church to get the job done.