24 Dec 2011 - More than just Christmas Memories...

For many of us as we mature, which is my term for getting older, the Christmas season becomes a time for remembering, recalling memories of Christmas in your childhood. That’s my case. I seem to do it more every year and it takes me back to the hills of western Wisconsin with the focus on the country church, the Brush Creek Lutheran Church, where I grew up; a church with 60 members at the time, that is still in existence today, with about 70 members.

That country church was not only the spiritual center of the community, it was also the social center. It was where we gathered throughout the year for special events and occasions. Christmas time was always a very special time with many memories that I still hold dear, the children’s Christmas program where each of us had to memorize what was called ‘our Christmas piece’ and then stand at the front of the church and deliver it to the congregation with the admonition from parents to “speak clearly and loudly so we can hear you”. That’s one of the memories; it looked like a huge cavern when I was six-years-old and today when I go back, there are just ten rows of pews and it’s not very large.

The country church still plays an important role in rural communities across the nation, not just at holiday time but throughout the year. For 30 years on our national television show, I devoted a minute each week to salute a country church, asking members of the congregation to send us history and photos that we could share with our viewers. It turned out to be most popular minute of the show as congregations proudly shared the heritage and history of their church.

As I moved into a large urban area and worshiped at some of the older city churches I began to realize that a country church and an older city church are faced with the same challenge. In the country, young members leave the church and move to a town or city for jobs and a better income; in the city, young people move to the suburbs for the same reason, and in both cases leave the financial support to older members in their declining financial years. The result is many big city churches and rural churches no longer have the support it takes to sustain them and they fade away leaving the community without that important spiritual, social center that we enjoyed while growing up.

So while I remember with a great deal of fondness that church and have the opportunity to occasionally worship there, I would suggest that those of us who have moved away continue to pray for the church and provide financial support so that future generations can have the memories that we cherish today. The Christmas season is a wonderful time to do that. Merry Christmas!

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.