My faith journey began on a North Dakota homestead next to an old Indian trail that led down to the river in our pasture, where the Indians camped many years before we lived there. To get to our little town on the prairie, you headed east past the Christmas tree corner, turned north and drove into town 6 miles away. That is where my first church was located. It began as the Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Congregation in 1880. The church was built in 1912 and was where my grandparents and parents attended services.
As a little girl I remember attending Sunday school in the basement of that church, down the narrow curved staircase, where the tables were all lined up for church dinners. Sunday school classes were spread out around the basement. I was proud to go to Sunday school every Sunday with my dime for the collection tied into the corner of one of Mom’s hankies. I really liked the Bible stories about Daniel and the Lion’s den, Noah’s Ark and David & Goliath. Mom would have coffee at my Aunt Edna’s house until it was time to get me for the church service. I knew Sundays and church were special, because we always dressed up for church (especially on Christmas Eve and Easter) and everybody I knew went to a church: Catholic, Presbyterian or Lutheran in our little town. We did follow the Fourth Commandment to remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.
I was taught to say my prayers at night, grace at our table and sing the grace with the congregation at church dinners. We did a lot of singing in the Lutheran Church and I loved it.
When I was 10 years old, Mom and Dad gave me my first Bible. It was a King James Version and I was so proud to have my very own Bible. I vowed to read it from cover to cover and I did! It took a while of course. My bookmark was a wonderful metal chain linking each of the Ten Commandments printed on a small scroll. It is a favorite keepsake now.
I learned the order of the service and felt comfortable and safe in my church. As I got older I wore a snow white dish towel around my waist to help serve coffee and clear dishes at our frequent church dinners. I was active in Luther League, even going to a national convention. During Saturday confirmation classes I memorized the 10 commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, Apostles Creed, Nicene Creed, the Books of the Bible in order and many other things. But it was very special to dress in a white robe with pink carnation corsage for our church confirmation day, despite being quizzed on what we knew.
Quite often my mother would remind me of the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as ye would have them do onto you.” She’d also remind me of the Fifth Commandment (Honor thy father and thy mother) if I got a little sassy. I really did like teaching Sunday school and Bible school during my high school years.
During college, I joined the Lutheran Student Organization, where I sang in the choir, helped with the nursery and attended services. My friends also attended their church services. Our strong faith was a part of us.
My first husband and I later joined a Unitarian Fellowship because that was the church where he grew up. We did that for several years, but when we moved into Columbus, Ohio, neighbors asked us to visit the Brookwood Presbyterian Church, which we joined. The location, the service and the church family were so right for us. I was sad when we moved to new jobs in Missouri.
As a widow, I visited several churches in the Maryville area searching for the right church again. I attended First Presbyterian one Sunday and it felt like home to me. Where I was sitting in the sanctuary for the service, the sunlight came through one of the stained glass windows and shone on my hands. What a powerful sign that it was the church for me.