There’s a very pretty church I happened upon one time when I was driving through rural Pierce and Pepin counties. It kept coming back to mind — the lovely tree-lined drive, the deer that gazed in my direction from a field beyond the sturdy gazebo.

When I went to Sabylund Lutheran Church’s Facebook page Saturday morning, thinking maybe I’d watch a midweek Lenten service, I found something even more recent than that — the women’s program for World Day of Prayer from Friday, March 5. I decided from the first few notes of piano music what I was going to do for the next 45 minutes or so.

The song Pastor Paul sonorously sang — with a dash of vibrato — was new to me but toward the end I started chiming in about it being time to get together as a nation and a family.

A cluster of 12 local churches got it together virtually. The focus of their attention was the stories of women in Vanuatu, a chain of over 80 tropical islands west of Australia. It’s a place where drinking water is scarce, storms are violent and opportunities are limited, but they care for the young and old. A very high percentage of the population is Christian. Prayers included for wisdom and understanding.

In a discussion about being “wise witnesses,” it was commented that it is important to learn from mistakes – your own as well as others.

There are already plans for a similar event next year hosted by another local congregation. The theme will be “I Know the Plans I Have for You.”

Pastor Paul in other videos proclaimed these to be “exciting times.” With vaccinations on the rise, “the light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter.”

The theme for their midweek Lenten services (complete with an interactive component wherein participants were invited to “be bold”) is about creating various sorts of community.

Prayers included “good courage for paths as yet untrodden.” Pastor is teaching a song version of The Lord’s Prayer.

The lesson for the third Sunday in Lent was about spring cleaning. A show of hands indicated who would be putting their hands to such use. Yet he spoke more of a spring cleaning of our “spiritual clutter” with an “economy” of grace versus merchants and money changers. Pastor suggested gathering together physically and virtually is a way to become “empowered to embrace” the principles of faith and perhaps sooner rather than later even literally embrace one another.

Announcements included a Palm Sunday procession of cars — a new tradition from last year worth keeping.

Kate Josephson grew up in rural southwestern Minnesota — going to a small town church every Sunday. She also worked as a church secretary part-time in Red Wing for seven years and continues to seek out religious experiences wherever she goes.

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