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Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014

Gray Matter: Rural church evokes pleasantries

Monday, November 7, 2005

There is a small rural church in the southwest corner of Cherokee County that is truly a treasure.  Majestic, square-towered, it sits on a rise (scarcely high enough to be called a hill) bestowing a blessing on the rich prairie lands which surround it. 

The congregation, founded over 125 years ago, first met in pioneer homes.  After a couple of wooden incarnations, the members decided to build the "new" brick building, as an expression of gratitude to God, at the coming of peace after WW I. I guess I'm a bit old- fashioned when it comes to church architecture, but I do find its formal dignity most appealing.  There is beautiful stained glass, an ornate altar and the original organ which has been carefully maintained and supplemented, with no electronic intrusion.

I find that lovely old places often evoke lovely old memories and that church is  no exception.  A good many years ago, a cousin of my husband's, with his charming wife, came from Phoenix, Ariz. to visit.  They were looking at all the family sites -- the homestead location, the cemetery plots and, particularly, the church.  A great uncle of the men had been one of its original founders.  We were there late one afternoon when sunlight, streaming through its magnificent rose window, gave it a hushed and sacred aura.  Suddenly, as we were quietly walking toward the door, I became  aware of  the sound of soft music.  I looked around, thinking someone must have been there before us and left a tape machine running.  In a moment I realized it was our cousin's wife singing. 

I knew she had a lovely voice and had done this sort of thing for  weddings, funerals, and the like for many years, so I shouldn't have been surprised.  Still, I must have looked a bit quizzical, for when she finished a verse of "Rock of Ages" she began to explain.  With her silvery, light-hearted laughter she told me that she liked to sing in churches whenever and wherever she could.  A few years earlier they had been on a tour of Europe with a group of fellow educators.  Like all Europeans tourists, they had visited their share of awe-inspiring cathedrals.  Their traveling companions soon became used to Virg quietly singing a verse or two of a favorite hymn, a nice accompaniment to their awed admiration.  Chuckling, she added,  "So now I can tell people I have sung in many of Europe's most famous cathedrals."

Virg went on to relate another instance which I found most amusing. While her husband was involved with fellow Distributive Education specialists at a national meeting in St. Paul, Minn., the spouses were taken on a city tour which included the Minnesota Governor's Mansion.

(I'm not sure who the governor was, but I do know it was long before  Ventura's time.)  The possibilities suddenly struck her, so she whispered to her tour companion, "Ask me to sing!"  The startled gal hesitated, unable to figure out just what was going on but, at Virg's insistence, she finally hissed, "Would you please sing?"  Rapidly, under her breath, my clever friend  sang, "For he's a jolly good fellow!  For he's a jolly good fellow! For he's a jolly good fellow!  That nobody can deny!"  Thereafter, she could honestly say,  "I was asked to sing in the Minnesota Governor's Mansion"  for, as a matter of fact, she was !

That quiet country house of God offers spiritual nourishment, and it can also initiate a host of happy recollections.   Both are most welcome at the point I've reached in my personal journey along life's intriguing way.