Monday, July 27, 2009

I've Been Inspired

I've been inspired by Stitchin' by the Lake whose most recent blog was written about small country churches - small in membership, not necessarily small in physical size.

I've told you previously that I was raised Norwegian Lutheran. At least that's how it ended up because my mother was raised Swedish Lutheran and my father Norwegian Lutheran. Back in their day there was a lot of segregation among the Swedes and the Norwegians. When my family finally settled in Small Town, USA, it was a community of Germans and there was no Swedish or Norwegian Lutheran church, not that it mattered at that point anyway. Just that it was Lutheran was more important. Here's a picture of what the church looked like when we moved here.

It was a country church built in 1892 on the bank of the same river Ole and I live by. It currently has a membership of approximately 250 active members. Below is a shot of the sanctuary. I just love the old Gothic design and was very sad when the council decided to abandon this church due to the fact that it flooded so frequently.

They decided to build a new, modern style building right in Small Town, and not that it's not beautiful in it's own right, it just lacks the character and the feel of the old church. I attended Sunday School there, was confirmed there and Ole and I were married there. We don't have the long history with this church that some of the community members do - some of my friends' families go back three and four generations.

When Lovely Daughter was ready to start confirmation we ended up leaving and transferring to a very large church (5000 membership) because of political reason. Church politics can get even uglier than regular politics. The minister at that time was busy driving all the young families away due to his dictating attitude. I won't go into the details, but over 50% of the young families left at that point.

As the years went by and Ole and I were lost in the huge membership we decided that we needed something a bit more personal. We made the move back to our little church and it was like old home week. Many of the young couples that had left when we did were in the process of returning also, and it was so nice to be warmly welcomed by many of the "old timers." At this point "that" minister had died. There had been several since him, but we returned about the time a new minister had accepted the call to our church.

He's a wonderful person - a 40-something family man who has had a "real" life prior to becoming a minister. He's an ex-marine that saw combat and didn't go into the ministry until he was 40 years old.

Stitchin' by the Lake wrote about the strong family feeling of a small church. I must agree with her - there's always someone you can count on to help you out in time of need. When Ole and I were being flooded so badly this past spring we received a number of calls not only from Pastor Mark, from the secretary at the office, but also from various parishioners making sure that we were okay, asking if we needed anything, or if they could come out and help with anything. That left such a warm feeling - knowing that you weren't alone in the battle and that you had people you could call on if needed.

A number of years ago a cousin and I went on a road trip back to the area where our parents had grown up. We decided on Sunday morning that we would attend that old Norwegian Lutheran church that our fathers had attended (our fathers were brothers). Now, mind you, neither of us had been back there for years - probably not since we were teenagers. Now we're both (ahem) "old bags." This is a tiny, little church, way out in the country that you have to drive on 10 miles of gravel roads to get to. Our grandparents are all buried there. We were late arriving and walked in just a couple of minutes before the service was to start. Believe me, we were very aware of all the looks and whispering that went on. But when the service was over and it was time for coffee down in the basement, you can believe that we were greeted by every single person in attendance and they ALL knew who we were!! We were the daughters of Arnold and Manfred and had to give a report on each member of our families. When it was time to go we both received hugs and warm greetings and lots of invitations to come back.

There's nothing like a small church on Sunday morning.

Love Lena


Anonymous said...

That is so lovely! -- Mel

Paula said...

What a pretty little church...too bad they had to leave it for a modern building. I would rather go to a small, homey church than a mega church in a hearbeat.