Sunday, October 30, 2011

A daughter returns home

Being a pastor’s daughter in North Dakota I always felt more like a tumble weed than a rooted plant. I was passing through and no matter what brush I might have gotten caught in, I had no roots. When the winds changed I’d eventually be on my way. At least that’s what I thought. For 14 years of my life I was a member at St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, ten miles outside of St. Thomas, ND. The parsonage was across the road. I was confirmed at that church and married there, then I left with my husband and have lived in Milwaukee Wisconsin, Fort Wayne Indiana and now I’m back in Milwaukee. Since I left North Dakota in 1994 I’ve only been back to that bit of country once to visit my parents, and it wasn’t a Sunday. So the last service I attended at St. Paul’s was my own wedding. Dad retired in 1998 and moved to Eau Claire Wisconsin, so in my mind I had no reason ever to go back there.

When my sister Sarah proposed us taking a road trip to Winnipeg for my cousin’s wedding I was excited and in the planning it looked like going to church in North Dakota would be an easy fit for our plans. Figuring out the service time was easy since I knew the pastor from my time in Fort Wayne and had friended him on Facebook.
I had learned from Sarah the year before that the parsonage was sold and moved away. The pastor that serves my father’s former parish lives in Cavalier. When I saw the pictures I got teary eyed. The view from the church just didn’t look right. In some sense I wanted to see it for myself but I was unsure of what emotional effect it would have.

The video below shows starting what would be the end of the driveway to the parsonage.

Sarah and I arrived early and there were about two cars in the parking lot. St. Paul’s does not have the Lord’s Supper every Sunday, but we were happy to see we’d be doing Matins, modified slightly for Sunday worship. It was wonderful. That’s the only word that comes to mind. The people, the church, the music, were all familiar. It was like returning home and sleeping in your old bed.

On one hand it was odd to be there with the parsonage gone and Mom and Dad still in Winnipeg. Rebecca was there with her whole family and then there was Sarah and me.
The sermon was good. I told a few people before church how excited I was when I saw the call list and realized who their pastor would be. Rev. Chepulis is not one to dumb things down or tread lightly around the truth. He preaches Christ and Him crucified. It was a joy to hear the law preached in all its harshness followed by the gospel in all its delight.

My sisters and I were greeted with open arms. Somewhere in the middle of the Te Deum it hit me. I was in the pew and with me in the nave were people who had taught me Sunday school, taken me to youth gatherings, whose children I had taught Sunday School. Women I had helped in the kitchen before and after potlucks. People who sent me aid when my house burned down six years ago. People who have prayed for my father through all his bouts with cancer. There was not an unfamiliar or unfriendly face. I was a daughter of St. Paul’s returning home for a visit and it was so good to be there. The only thing that would have made it better would have been the real presence of Christ in the Sacrament.

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