Waseca County Pioneer 111 W. Elm Ave.

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Revelations at 3:30 a.m. on a Sunday

I couldn’t sleep Saturday evening into Sunday. Finally, I got up and wrote the following.
I prayed a lot these last two months for the First Congregational Church in New Richland. I was deeply saddened when I learned my lifelong church was in the process of closing.
I can kindly report those prayers have been answered, just not in a way I expected.
No, the members of the church aren't going to continue to worship together. Sunday was our final service.
But in my seeking, I spoke with several fellow members.
It is a blessing we get to say goodbye to this piece of our lives on our own terms. I’m grateful pastor Pamela is the one leading us through this process.
I compare the process to grieving. Like someone who has lost a loved one, I’ve concluded my sense of “loss” is mostly for things I once assumed I would have. I expected the church and my membership in it to be continuing elements in my life–I pictured future services of thanksgiving for moments and events yet to come. I am recognizing how important those services would have been to me, and grieving they will never happen.  The things I’ll miss most are the loss of future memories and moments I hoped and prayed and dreamed about.
I think that’s part of the reason the grieving process is so difficult when we lose a loved one.
When I was 12 my grandmother passed away.
I’ve told the story often: My grandmother experienced a stroke and seemed lost to us. I prayed for my grandmother to recover enough from the stroke long enough to spend a day with my father. I really wanted the two of them to have one last chance to say their goodbyes. That prayer was answered. I remember my dad calling me from the hospital the next day.
My dad excitedly told me my grandmother was well enough that I could speak with her.
I said no.
I didn’t visit Grandma in the hospital because I wanted to remember her the way she was, not hooked up to machines in an unfamiliar place. I wanted to remember Grandma the way I still do to this day.
I’m fairly sure my dad was disappointed when I said no. In the background, I heard Grandma speak the final words I ever heard her say out loud, “No, no Jimmy. It’s okay.”
The message was sweet, and it put me at ease, but also made my 12-year old self want to cry. That was enough for me.
I remember walking around the funeral home during Grandma's wake. I didn’t understand why everyone was so sad. According to everything I had learned, Grandma was in heaven. I just didn’t understand. The grieving process didn’t exist for me at that time. I didn’t know what the word meant.
I always told Grandma I loved her every night when we would talk on the phone. Oh, so many Twins games we talked about. I remember Dad taking me to see her earlier that year. She gave me $200, the same amount she gave my siblings. I remember thinking, Grandma's probably going to die soon, that’s why she’s giving us a bonus. From that moment on, I tried really hard not to take any time I had left with her for granted.
And that’s how I’ve felt this past six weeks with the First Congregational Church. I didn’t want to take any of this time for granted.
It’s difficult knowing we won’t worship together again between those same walls, in the same pews, led by Pastor Pamela. But as my friend Paul told me, it’s not the building that made our space special. It was the people.
I’m forever grateful for the impact those special people had on my life and how they helped shape my faith and–at least to a degree–my world view and my personality.
After putting my thoughts down on paper, I drifted off effortlessly into sleep early Sunday morning.
Monday, I added a closing thought.
All I have to say about the final service at First Congregational Church is this:
It was perfect.


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