The first few notes of organ music being played as things we’re getting going at Bethany Lutheran Church in Lake City on Nov. 22, 2020, reminded me of growing up.

I had to play the organ in church sometimes when I was in high school. It’s been years since I really thought about the few lessons I had demonstrating how to do the fingering so as to produce a continuous sound. A trip down memory lane. The triumphant burst of notes at the end of the service, when a big view of the front of the church was shown with all the fancy carved wooden spires like points of a crown and all the lit candles, was probably beyond my ability.

Pastor Steven said to a small but capacity in-person congregation that this last Sunday of the church year was probably not what anyone anticipated. He explained a scheduled pause of in-person worship starting next week. Christmas Day will be online only. Leadership is still considering options for Christmas Eve. Pastor listed a variety of ways to communicate with him including “carrier pigeon and smoke signals.” He also announced while wearing black and khaki that his freshly laundered robe looks great where he forgot it hanging up back at home.

The responsive reading of the hymns had a congregational cadence that reminded me of the strength of voices in unison, including watching for “a new heaven and a new Earth.”

The sermon took a deeper dive into familiar scripture. Although the prevailing understanding of what one does or doesn’t do “to the least of these” regarding taking care of the poor is “good, right and solid,” an advanced class he’s taking offered further commentary. Consider the word, “brethren.” It generally refers to the disciples and by extension pastors. But then there are lots of people involved in sharing the gospel.

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We were encouraged to — along with giving and filling stockings, hats, mittens and more — hope to fill hearts with joy and gladness.

Prayers included for: science, art, medicine, laborers and law enforcement; the un- and under-employed; and all those afflicted in body or mind. Also, may government leaders hear the voice of the “good shepherd” to help unite us in a “harmonious spirit.”