The congregation was aging, losing members and worried about its future. In some ways it was the poster congregation for what we mean when we refer to the declining mainline church. It was also the first congregation I served as a pastor.

It was a hard church to figure out because most of the members were Norwegian and not particularly fond of discussing their feelings. During the years I spent there we shared good and bad times, experienced some growth and became much more involved in mission. It had little to do with me and everything to do with whatever it was within the souls of people who were determined, in their quiet way, to be the church.

I left that congregation more than 20 years ago. But recently I received my best glimpse of the unrecognized gift that explains why that church, and many like it, will remain too busy with mission to die.