July 1st I arrived as the new minister at a country church: the Kemble-Sarawak, Zion-Keppel Pastoral Charge. The ministry now runs out of two church buildings, Kemble United Church and Zion United Church. They are located along the foothills of Kemble Mountain, skirting the Kemble Mountain Management Area of the Grey Sauble Conservation Authority. Each morning I drive along panoramic views of Georgian Bay on my way to the churches and marvel at God’s beauty in the picturesque countryside.
The folks of this pastoral charge have warmly welcomed me and my husband. A masked Welcoming Party surprised me one morning presenting a wicker laundry basket filled to the brim with homemade preserves, jams, wines, ciders, breads, baked goods, Kemble Mountain Maple syrup, Big Bay ice cream gift certificates, and some wonderful books to read. The basket was so large I could not possibly lift it. Each item given from different members of the churches. I was speechless. Their generous and sincere welcome brought tears to my eyes. It is good to be back among country folks!
Small country churches are big into curing! All kinds of curing occur, the curing of loneliness, heart break, and illnesses. They cure each other the best way they know, by the giving of themselves.
In one country church I served there was a woman who couldn’t tell the story of her husband’s death without crying. This isn’t surprising except she cried more from gratitude then from her grief. Now, don’t get me wrong, her husband’s death was the cause of profound pain for her and her family but when she shared how the folks of her country church responded to this death her tears of grief turned into tears of gratitude.
You see, she and her four children were new to Canada; they had arrived only 2 years earlier. When her husband died suddenly she was left to raise her children alone in a foreign country. When news spread of her husband’s death it wasn’t long and folks began to arrive at her front door with casseroles, homemade bread, baked goods and fresh vegetables. And, it is in this moment of the retelling that she always begins to cry, when autumn arrived the men of the church arrived one morning without warning and by day’s end had brought in all her crops.
She never forgot their generosity of spirit and even 20 years later, when sharing this story; her shoulders would shake from the sobbing.
Yes, country folks know how to cure, healing each other one loaf of bread or fresh baked pie at a time.
In another church I served a young couple with 3 children had their house burn to the ground one morning. It was early March and a spark from the wood stove caught something flammable in the kitchen. By the time the flames were noticed they were jumping through the kitchen window. Thankfully, the husband, wife and youngest child were in the barn while the two eldest were on the bus heading to school. They lost everything except each other.
We handed over the keys to our furnished manse, since I wasn’t using it. Soon folks came from all around with what it took to “cure” this shattered family. Mennonites drove their wagons up the lane way and quietly dropped off roasts of beef, bags of potatoes and boxes of home baked goods. Pickup trucks carrying new toys, clothes, bedding and even dog food for the two beloved canines arrived. Quickly a Saturday night dance was arranged in the town hall with all proceeds going to aid the family. It was six months until they returned home; during that time I often witnessed “drop offs” as folks continued to support this family. One Sunday morning the husband stood in my office door with tears running down his cheeks sharing his gratitude for all that had been done for him and his family. He said God had saved his family from the fire and the community saved them from despair.
The author of 1 Peter 3:8 reminds us to “be like minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble” and by doing so, he writes we gain blessing. But, I would add that even more than being blessed we become blessing and by so doing we join God here and now in building up the Kin-dom of God!