On Sunday morning, Sept. 20, 2020, I clicked into the website for St. Paul’s United Church of Christ just outside of Ellsworth, Wis., to discover that they were live-streaming their worship service outdoors just then. Being in the general vicinity, I hurried off in that direction. It sounded like they had some live music.

I’d wondered, given the “tipping point” of pandemic infections in Pierce County, if they’d postpone plans to go back inside their nice building — they have a fine parking lot and that big outdoor cross.

Playing the audio over my phone as I drove, Pastor Adam talked about brain chemistry (I remembered hearing there is a reptilian part) and the three responses to fear (freeze, flee or fight).

Then there are the three things you should never talk about in public (religion, sex and politics). Or should you?

I still remember stopping my chair mid-swivel when I realized the good-guy senior pastor and I had canceled out each other’s vote in a presidential election. I said something like, please tell me why. As I recall he somewhat reluctantly expounded a bit. Seems to me I disagreed with some of his basic assumptions, but could agree that they weren’t completely unreasonable. Given that, his choice was sort of logical. Fair enough.

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As I was approaching the church, I again saw their impressive hilltop cemetery across the highway and thought a few musical notes might even carry all the way up there; but no. Parking for a moment by the little white building I stepped out, phone in hand, to admire the view. The dome of the courthouse seemed to line up with the memorial to the first settlers, which I admired as “Rock of Ages” was being played. I noticed a couple shiny antique cars at the church as I made my way past.

Listening to the full video the next day at home I learned there is going to be a five part series on finding common ground. Wearing a driver’s cap, Pastor Adam, who “loves ideas” explained it is the “root of our being” is to be “image bearers for God.”

During announcements there was talk of food. All 44 pies sold at the farmers market and plans are being discussed for a parking lot dinner in early October — habits of the stomach may lead to “habits of the heart.”