Across America even today, if you know where to look, you will find small-town Christian churches and other houses of worship from different traditions full of local history. These congregations -- even in a time of demographic religious slippage -- continue to be an important part of the local society for many reasons.
I grew up in such a church in Woodstock, Ill. First Presbyterian Church there is in a different location from when I was a member but it continues to be an important gathering place full of families with long histories there and families who are new to the area.
I was thinking about all these congregations the other day when I ran across this nice story of an organist at a Presbyterian church in Iowa who has been doing that weekly ministry of music for 50 years.
There's nothing stunning or heart-breaking or crazy out-of-the-ordinary about Sharon Furler (the photo of her here I borrowed from her church's website), who plays the organ at First Presbyterian Church near Ely, Iowa, but there is something reassuring about her and her consistency in a time of sometimes-distressing change and social turmoil.
I am not waxing nostalgic in an effort to turn back to allegedly better days of decades ago -- those times when we white men pretty much ran everything and diversity meant a Presbyterian married a Lutheran and they had to negotiate where they went to church. No, those days are gone and to a lot of that I say good riddance.
But there's a place for stability, for consistency in ministry. And though you certainly can find that in large cities, including in the congregation I call home, it's more likely to be found in smaller communities that have somehow managed to hold together through the wild cultural changes that have buffeted the nation.
So next time you're near Ely, Iowa, on a Sunday morning, stop by and hear Sharon play the organ. I'm guessing the music will warm your heart.
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IS THIS WHAT BEING A PRESBYTERIAN MEANS?
David Cay Johnston, author of the just-published The Making of Donald Trump, which I'm about halfway through reading, says in this interview with Religion News Service that Trump "is aggressively antithetical to the most basic teachings of Jesus." Much of the rest of the book, focused on Trumps' business dealings and his philosophy of always getting even through revenge, pretty much proves that. Sigh.