I spent a lot of time in churches this past weekend. I went to Sioux Falls, SD with my mother and partner, Paul, primarily to attend the celebration of the finished life of a good friend’s mother.
This friend, let’s call her Cammy, has always brought feelings of “it’s a small world” and “six degrees of separation” into my mind. I met her about 15 years ago at the very liberal church I attend in St. Paul, MN. She is PhD musician, stunning blond and stands straight and tall at 6’1″. She was married to an even taller black man and has three friendly, statuesque children with him. The reason I think it is a small world is because her father was a pastor (he has passed away) and just happened to be the pastor at my Mom’s home church in Renner, SD. Cammy spent many years at that church and was married there by her father. At the time, this didn’t go over very well, especially with some of my relatives, for reasons I’ll let you imagine. Cammy’s father also buried my grandfather (my mother’s father) and Mom never forgot the wonderful service he performed for her dad.
Cammy’s mother’s service was at St. Mark’s Lutheran in Sioux Falls, where her parents attended for the last 10 or 12 years. It was so clear how much her mother brought to these people and how she and Cammy’s father embodied the very meaning of Matthew 25:31-46.
Mom, Paul and I also visited the home church, West Nidaros Lutheran Church in Renner, SD. This was originally a successful farming based church that has made the transition of farming and suburban community church. It was probably appropriate that there was a baptism, or celebration of new life, during that service. There were lots of friendly faces, many of which were related to Mom and I. We visited the replica church built in honor of the original Nidaros in Norway, the log cabin of relatives, moved and rebuilt to emphasize the roots of the church and, of course, the grave markers for my grandparents, uncle and aunt on Mom’s side of the family.
Lastly, we drove by Mom’s home place, which is still in the family, but rented out. The owner makes sure the place is well maintained and beautiful.
When I go back to my grandparents place, the church they attended or the family reunions organized by those left around Renner, SD, I am reminded how far and wide is a family. I talked to 2nd, 3rd and 4th cousins after church and thought about how we are all connected through blood, gospel, friendship, race, sexual orientation, etc.
So many family members, so little time. Now that I’m 53, I think even more often about not wasting my precious time avoiding, criticizing or hating people that are family in so many senses of the word. The world has plenty of haters, what it needs is more lovers.