Recently I visited a nearby country church with a tumultuous history. Built in a berg called Klondike, it was originally a Catholic church. In the ’90s, the building was hit by lightning. The volunteer fire department bravely climbed up into the attic and put the fire out, at some risk to their own lives. Repairs were made and the church went on. But a few years later, in 2005, the diocese closed the church, and its members migrated to another nearby parish.
I started singing in church choirs when I was a teenager. There I learned to read music and find acceptance among the grown up singers. It was my church’s choir director who helped me find my spiritual voice again after a car accident that fractured my larynx. I went on to study vocal music, compose hymn lyrics and sing in choirs at my college, seminary and several churches over the years. There is a special kind of relationship that forms among choir members. Something about those rehearsals, with their jokes, irritations and prayer rituals, creates a spiritual bond that can’t be replicated anywhere else.
My daughter has a pet plant, Vivaldi. He’s a succulent, and a nice, bushy one, too. But it wasn’t always that way for Vivaldi. When she first brought him home from the nursery, she was given special soil and instructions to “be careful not to overwater a succulent.”
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A couple of weeks ago I went on an unforgettable mission trip to New Orleans and encountered a church that gave me a lot to think about. Prince of Peace Missouri Synod Lutheran Church was once a thriving church and school. It was flooded when Hurricanes Katrina and Rita destroyed thousands of homes, businesses, and community buildings along the Gulf Coast from Texas to Alabama in 2005.
I told a story in church one Sunday. It was not just my story; it was a shared story from my family that had only been told quietly for a long time. Maybe it was a confession. After telling it I felt spent, as if something powerful had moved through me. To be a storyteller is like having an electric current move through your body.
I ran into Ralph at the café. Ralph is a retired paper mill worker, a Vietnam vet, and a self-proclaimed “wise sage” who drives everyone in the café crazy with his incessant theological chatter. He always interrupts my sermon preparation. He wants to talk about God or Jesus or numerology or the chickens he’s raising. But most times, I come away from a conversation with him having yielded a little jewel of insight. This time it was a big one.