Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Church Basement Ladies

I honestly don't know if it's true, but the church ladies of the long gone Delafield Evangelical Lutheran Church of Delafield Township, Jackson County, Minnesota, swear--on a bible even--that the smash hit Church Basement Women, a long-running and oft-toured theater piece (an original and two sequels, in fact) was created from material they gave the playwrights in a wonderful little documentary film titled Delafield.

At least that's what they told me yesterday. Straight-faced too. Of course, they're Lutheran women, so lying is out of the question.

We met them yesterday at Windom American Lutheran Church, for lunch--not in the basement, but you get the picture. We'd watched the film the night before with some good folks from Leota Christian Reformed Church, where a sobering discussion occured afterward because the documentary itself is a lament, not only for the passing of a church, but the virtual passing of the rural way of life in the Upper Midwest.

The Delafield church disbanded in 1998, when it looked at itself and realized it had far greater past than a future. The pastor says, on the film, that she asked the children to come forward for a children's sermon, but none came. There wasn't any. Most of what she saw before her was silver-haired. It's a blessedly loving documentary created by a son of the congregation, and it was especially moving in Leota, Minnesota, where the good people lost their elementary school just last year. When you lose your kids, you lose a future. We didn't pass out Kleenex before that film went on, but it would have been kind of us to have done just that.

The country folk of Delafield gave their old Lutheran church away, and if you're ever travelling down I-90, past Jackson, Minnesota, all you need to do is lift your eyes to the hill on the south side of the road, where that church's steeple still sits proudly against the horizon. Today, it's the tallest building in a tourist stop (not trap either--trust me).

Anyway, what we'd set up for the bus tour we're on is a meeting with those very sweet country Lutheran folks who starred in the documentary that gave birth to all the comedy. We'd meet them, we said, the very next day at the Lutheran church in Windom, the church some of them now attend. Honestly, I thought it would be a highlight of our little pilgrimage through rural southwest Minnesota, a place where few tourists stop to smell the prairie roses. I thought so because the film tells their story as evocatively as it does; our tour bus folks would love to meet them.

That meeting was everything I imagined--and more.

When we pulled up on the east side ("you better use the east side because we got vbs going on, you know"), those Minnesota Lutherans wandered outside the door to greet the frozen chosen Calvinists right off the bus. There they stood like some silver-maned welcome wagon, and once our people filed off the bus, they were greeted, open arms. Yes, open arms. I'm not making this up. Actual hugs.

I'm not kidding. I saw it with my own eyes. Those Lutherans and our Calvinists hugged each other even though they'd never laid eyes on us before, and we'd seen them only on a vhs tape. Like old friends. Like family. It's true, I swear. I'm not lying. Hugged. I got pictures.

All of that was late Tuesday morning. We've still have several days to go on this trip, and I don't dare to say it aloud really, but the truth is if we have a moment more precious than that one, all that hugging--can you believe it?-- right there on the front step of the Lutheran Church, I'll be one shocked pilgrim. And lunch too yet. My lands.

It was a very, very good moment. Garrison Keillor wouldn't believe it. What I'm saying is what he claims about Minnesota Lutherans is way off base. And those fine playwrights who've created those plays about Lutheran Church women?--they wouldn't believe it either, all those free hugs between actual strangers right there at church. It happened sure as anything.

What an incredible blessing. Good enough this morning, for morning thanks, don't you think?


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Wonderful commentary. I love the "Church Basement Ladies"!