And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. – Hebrews 10:25 (NLT)
When we moved to the country in 1980, we didn’t need to search far for a church home. A small church, of the same denomination we attended in town, perched on a hill only three miles away in the village of Canoe Ridge. With children ages eleven months and four years, the short distance afforded us the needed time to get everyone ready and still be on time for the service.
It was a simple country church, the kind you see in pictures and paintings: white clapboard siding, double-hung windows, and a spire that reached through the pine trees that surrounded it. The basement Sunday school classrooms were damp, but a dehumidifier, along with the energy of children, chased away the chill.
We soon found ourselves involved in the life of the congregation – teaching Sunday school, helping with Vacation Bible School and holiday programs, and cleaning the church. Several other couples our age attended, and it wasn’t long before we met in our homes for Bible study, food, fellowship and just plain fun. We raised our children together, shared our hopes and fears, joys and sorrows, dreams and disappointments.
A music lover, I volunteered to direct a choir. We sang once a month and practiced after church on Sundays, since we were all there anyway. This was a much better fit for me than supervising the nursery, where I cuddled one child in my lap while two more played kangaroo in the toy box.
The Christmas Eve candlelight service, which we instituted, became the highlight of the year for me.
We enjoyed carry-in suppers every holiday, with the men serving the women for Mother’s Day. When we first started attending, the dinners were held at a building in Rochester Mills, a few miles from “The Ridge,” as we often called the church. Over time, we dug out a section for a basement kitchen, fellowship room, and food pantry.
Every summer we drove to Cook Forest for a church picnic, and every fall we bundled up for a hot dog roast and hayride at Winebark Lake. We held white elephant sales to raise money. I still remember the retro purse and matching beige patent leather heels that made an appearance every year, disguised, of course. One year the church pianist won the bid, then wore them to church the next day!
Our pastor was a true man of God. I once told him when I looked at him, I saw Jesus. When my mother died in 1986, he and his wife made the two-hour drive to the funeral home. And this was a man who worked a full-time job and shepherded us “part-time.” He didn’t just preach the Word, he lived it. He set the bar, and we were better, truer, Christians for it.
Many of the folks have since passed on; the kids are all grown up and have families of their own. But the bond we shared remains, for we were, are, and always will be, family.
So when I hear someone say, “I don’t do church,” I think, “You don’t know what you’re missing!”
Thank you, Father, for the love we shared and the friendships we forged at the little church on the hill. Amen.
Special-Tea: Read Acts 2:42–47