MY CHURCH

             The church of my youth was Swedish Lutheran in origin and it sat on a hill.  It was very much a point of pride to our family to be able to say that my Great-Great Grandmother was one of its founding members.  In fact, even as I write this, there is a ship that bears her name “Brita” as it hangs from the rafters of that old church.  If I were to name one memory that stands out to me about my Mothers family, it would be of their involvement in church. My Grandfather often sat and read the bible at the big, old, round oak table that sat in front of the window in their large kitchen. His oft repeated message to us was “Be humble, girls, be humble!” 

            My Grandmother, after much convincing on the part of her Granddaughters, would sing a song for us, taken out of the old hymnal.  I still remember her singing “Abide with me”, and because of her shyness, she would begin in a weak and wavy voice which grew stronger and more sure as she sang for the rapt audience of her two granddaughters.  I loved listening to her sing and I also loved listening to my mother sing as each of them sang their favorite hymns from the old hymn books kept in the sitting room of our home. This did not happen often, for they were each shy about being center of attention. But, occasionally they would acquiesce to our pleading and their courage picked up as we listened with shining eyes and clapping hands.

 

 

             As I reflect back in time,  I can still see my young self peering out of the window from the back seat of our old car as our family sped along the rode towards our local Church.  I always felt a sense of anticipation as I waited for the church come into view.  In my minds eye, I can still see our family motoring up the road and around that last curve, and me watching as the church steeple first came into view visible over the tree line.  Soon the entire church came into view and it seemed to rest serenely and proudly on that high hill.  It always put a smile on my face as my eyes followed the tall pointed steeple upwards into the wide expanse of sky.  To me, it seemed so majestic!  Our family always parked our car in the area below the hill, where, at the base of the hill and leading up to the church was a very long flight of stairs, flanked by sturdy iron railings on either side.  Our church had a pristine white clapboard siding on the exterior and one could see the many tall stained glass windows that lined the walls on either side of the church.

 

 

           Within the church,  I can still remember those gorgeous, multicolored windows glowing on a sunny Sunday morning, taking on a brilliant hue as those sunlit colorful rays would penetrate through and bounce off the tops of the pews and peoples heads.

 

 

             At the front center of the church, in an alcove, stood an old fashioned white altar, edged in gold.  The center  and heart of this altar formed a frame for a picture depicting Jesus raising his right hand upwards toward heaven as a golden glow radiated around His head.

 

 

           The white, gilt edged pulpit was elevated at the front left of the church.  The shape of it was bulbous on the bottom and highly detailed.  It was a beautiful piece of art for such a little country church.  It had been built high above where the congregation sat, which gave our Pastor a lofty perch from which to preach.  It was not uncommon for him to brace himself with his arms spread wide and his hands grasping either side of the pulpit railing as he leaned forward to give emphasis on a particular point in his sermon.

 

 

           To the right side of the altar on the wall, was a beautiful dark oak frame where the white hymn numbers on a black background were displayed for each Sundays Service.  On either side of the altar, stood two tall gold colored candelabra’s in an inverted “V” holding tall white candles that were lit each Sunday.

 

 

           To the right of the front of the church was where the choir sat. In those years, my Mother was in in the choir and I was so proud of her, not only for her singing ability, but for the kind of mother she was in the example she always set for her children.

 

 

           Church was a very important part of our life back then. It was a day of worship, a day of rest, a day of celebration, and a time of congregating with our friends and neighbors. In those days, in that area, Church was not only a place to worship, it was a place where we gathered with our friends to socialize.

 

 

           These days, everyone is so busy!!!!!  There is always so much to do with our careers and schedules and the infinite amount of extracurricular activities we create for ourselves, which, as a result, oftentimes means church just gets squeezed in at the end of the week, if even then.  The old church hymns are slowly fading away for many in favor of newer, more contemporary Christian music.  For my part, I can never let go of the traditional church service of my youth, and old time hymns I learned from my elders, to make way for the new.  These days, as I sit in at our traditional church service and sing age old songs, I can sense my parents and grandparents spirits all around me.  I can feel their presence as we carry on the traditions they handed over to us with the request that we  cherish them and keep them alive for our children.  I can feel my ancestors presence as the stories of our past family members are written to paint a picture of life long ago before our children were even born.  It is important to me to preserve the past because it is a part of who I am and a part of who my children are just because of traditions that have been passed down to them.

 

 

            I’ve heard the phrase, “what was old is new again” and I surely hope it is true.  I hope the time will come when we will once again have time to cherish the traditions of the past and enjoy the stories of relatives long gone.  For now, though,  I will continue to sing the songs my ancestors sang, I will attend the church they worked so hard to bring to life,  and I will keep the traditions they created.  Through me, they will continue to live, if our children will take the time to read and listen.  For if they do all the past generations will continue to live with them in spirit.

 

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