Instead of turning at the awesome towering brown brick church in rural Goodhue County near Kenyon, I went just a little bit farther and turned at the yellow sign depicting a teeter-totter. I parked at Holden Park next to a fellowship of tall field corn stalks — their shiny new tassels waving in the breeze. A gentleman on a ladder in the back of his pickup was working on the silver bell atop the blue pole (and later coaxed out several concluding chimes).

Retrieving the folding chair out of my vehicle I headed toward the side of the wooden building painted a dark purplish hue with pale yellow trim. Instead of congregating with the others right away, I walked a mowed path under a huge oak tree past a windmill and hand pump toward a brightly sunlit monument. The stone was erected in remembrance of Norwegian settlers in the mid-1800s.

I could hear the music and singing of the words “rejoice, rejoice,” while I walked, punctuated by an occasional rebuke from the crows. Heading back for Pastor Heather’s sermon, I moved in close enough to easily hear most of her description of “a long Minnesota goodbye.” The custom of standing around in coats near the front door or on the driveway is familiar to me. The words “pray without ceasing“ and “hold fast to what is good“ were also pleasantly familiar.

After the sermon there was a baptism. School-age sisters in summer dresses were prayed over from a safe distance by Pastor Heather wearing a mask, and the water was handled by their parents out of a basin on a wooden table on the lawn. It was announced the older girl would soon be starting confirmation.

Turning in at the church on the way back home I was happy to see an angel afloat in the high up stained glass window overlooking the cemetery, and paused to reflect on a couple of old gravestones depicting clasped hands — mindful of handshaking being a thing of the recent, versus long-ago, past.

Zigzagging over to Highway 52 I couldn’t resist stopping along side the road long enough to hear singing through the open door at Emmanuel Lutheran Church and admire their sturdy bright white cross at the roof peak showing distinctly against the vibrant blue sky.

Turning in the opposite direction from whence I’d come, I wanted to visit another steeple I’d noticed earlier. Ah yes, Urland Lutheran Church.

Standing on the edge of the landscaping I heard a guest speaker describe the situation she had lived through on Lake Street in Minneapolis. There was a truck backed up to a neat accumulation of donated items that looked like they would fill it to capacity. The speaker mentioned they had been “passed over“ during the riots and we’re very grateful for that. She also mentioned that while her husband who is a bus driver of 23 years still has his job a friend who had driven bus for 18 years was furloughed and having trouble making ends meet.

Instead of getting onto the highway right away I continued back to Spring Garden Lutheran Church where there were cars parked, pulled along the side of the silvery metal fence, heard music and realized they too were having an outdoor service. Standing on steppingstones by the blooming hostas under the flag flapping in the breeze, I felt my long linen dress brushing against my ankles and heard the words “moment by moment,” “do not be discouraged,” also “hear our prayer” and “let it be so.”