As much as I have distanced myself from the “church” as an institution, I admire what my mom and my sister have for church. What they have now is family. Let me tell you about their families.
Mom’s church: Mom lives on a farm about 2 miles from the local town, In that local town is a Lutheran “church” that has a building over a 100 years old. It is typical of the rural buildings. Little white box with a steeple and a bell that they never use. The pews are old wooden, probably dating back to the inception of the building itself. As old and rickety as the building and its components are… the community that gathers there are indeed a family. It is what church used to be like 50-75 years ago in the rural communities. It wasn’t just a building, these people shared their lives together. This community has welcomed me into its family even through I don’t go Sunday morning and when I go Sunday morning… it is usually after the service is over and no one complains that I’ve missed anything. I have made it pretty obvious that I am not interested in the tradition and the rituals. But it doesn’t phase them. I show up for potlucks, community events, Christmas caroling… you name it. Everything but “church”… but in doing that I find I am so much a part of the church anyway.
The pastor they have now only works part time for the two parish congregation, so he supplements his income in various ways. One on his part time jobs is my mom’s handyman. Since my carpenter father passed away, there has been a lot of work to do on the farm and around the house, so the pastor has been a big part of that. His wife has a garden at the farm too, so they have become very special to me. They know my story and have still embraced me with no judgment or shame. I guess I find this hard to replace and that would be one reason I have chosen to stay away from finding something new.
My sister’s “church” One thing that makes my sister’s community so unique is the pastor. He started working there straight out of seminary and has been there for over thirty years. That community has been his family for as long as he’s been called pastor. That is not only rare in the Lutheran denominations, but unheard of. Most pastors move around 5-10 times in their life. Seems God “calls” them to be mobile.
I told the pastor that I respected him for staying with one community. Because of his commitment to stay, his “church” has become more of a family than a program to sustain. I respect him and his wife for the home they have given so many people over the years. I was able to share this with him this weekend when I attended his father-in-law’s funeral. I don’t know what other people have told him in the past, but I told him “Thank you for staying!” Because no one else does. My mom tells me he plans to stay there until he retires. What a legacy! (my sister and her family have also been a part of this community for over 25 years)
Those two communities have outshone so much of what I have experienced. I am glad for my mom and my sister for what they have. My mom once told me… "I don’t blame you for leaving, because of what you went through… " What I miss is the family. It is what I haven’t been able to find much of in my own world. So I share myself with my family’s family and for now I am content with that. Just wish they weren’t so far away.
Ruby from Calmar, Alberta