Coming home to my church left me feeling blessed
I grew up at a time when my first cousins and I all lived within a mile of each other.
There are 10 of us, some growing up on two family farms and others in the small town of Apple River. Our grandparents lived close enough that we all met once a week for Sunday dinner.
Six of us were together again last week to participate the departure of an aunt who lived a life full of love, but sickness had prepared her to leave this land.
It was a wonderful funeral at our original church, St. Paul’s Lutheran, in Warren. We went together to the burial cemetery but also to lay flowers on the graves of our grandparents and parents who had previously died.
The blessing of the day was to come together as a family with a share of hugs and an expression of love. We fellowship around “food for the funeral” and posed for a cousin photo that may not be relived for a long time.
St. Paul’s Lutheran Church has a long history with the Meier family, who are on my mother’s side. My great-grandparents, August and Winnie Meier, were among the founders of the church when it split from another church across the Wisconsin border.
As I sat on the church bench, I gazed at the beautiful altar, remembering the stories my grandparents told about how my great-grandfather helped build the altar. The statue of Jesus against the back wall was donated to the church by my great-grandparents.
I listened to the music played by the organist and reflected on my childhood years in this church. I know I refused to go to Sunday school, spend Saturdays in Confirmation classes, and have to participate in the First Communion ritual, but I look back and am so grateful that my mother gave me religious education, which helped me to become the person I am today.
I don’t go back to my home church much, except for funerals. This will be the last funeral I will attend for a family member in this church. I absorbed it all that day, and when I first met the pastor, I told her it was my home church, to which she replied, “Welcome home.
It’s good to come home. Additional feelings at home with my cousins had memories that kept coming back. Before I left the church that day, I stepped into the sanctuary to take another look. I thought of Meier’s story with the church. I saw myself as a young eighth grader in a yellow dress standing with my confirmation class for photos at the altar.
I took a look at the statue of Jesus and said a prayer.
It feels good to come home. I spent the day with my family. I said goodbye to a dear aunt. I feel blessed.
Jane Lethlean is a freelance correspondent.