Love, a Country Church and Covid-19

My Column for The Elgin Review March 25, 2020.

We love our little country church. We love its bell tower and bell—Its rope recently repaired by Jon Grothe so Norman could ring it first to call us to worship on his confirmation day last spring. We love the timelessness of the church’s clean prairie design. We love how it sits proud, nestled in a grove of trees atop the little rise across from our graveyard, next to our playground, neighbor to Kinney cattle and Currie family fields. We love the church’s interior, the warmth of the well-worn walnut pews, the banners made by the Reddings hanging neatly, demarking the seasons of the church year, the burgundy curtains over the age rippled windows. We love the pretty old piano that Joann Anderson wakens from its weekday slumbers into full-voiced praise on Sunday mornings.  We love the cross that lights up above our chancel and the brass vases on the altar lovingly filled with flowers by Sharon Wilkinson. We love the plaque at the back of the sanctuary bearing the names of our congregation’s charter members, names that include Clarks and Kinneys and Curries, descendants of whom are still among our members today. We love our little country church.

But what we love more than all those truly lovely things, is each other. Sunday morning in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic we loved each other so much we kept away from each other and didn’t find our way to our little church on the top of the rise ½ mile south of HWY 70. Instead, we traveled a new way to find each other via Zoom, the online meeting application. Gwen Kinney connected with Zoom by landline while on speaker phone with her mother-in-law, Phyllis at The Willows in Neligh. Barb Henery and Sharon Wilkinson mastered new tricks of technology and video-conferenced in from the comfort of their homes in Elgin. Others called in on cell phones and landlines while Mike and I attended from the comfort of the parsonage in Neligh.

Our worship service wasn’t what we are used to. We didn’t sing hymns because they lag badly on Zoom. When we prayed the Lord’s prayer it wasn’t exactly in unison—our voices were like echoes and descants of each other’s. I shared scripture and some thoughts about the story and we passed Christ’s peace to each other, not by shaking hands, but by listening as each took a turn “checking in,” sharing how we are doing in the midst of social distancing and news about the pandemic. We prayed for each other and for our neighbors and when I’d given the benediction at the end of the service, I had tears in my eyes as I clicked the button on my computer to end our Zoom session for the day. God was truly with us.

Park Church isn’t our building, as lovely as it is. Park Church is people who love God, each other, and you, our neighbors. If you find yourself lonely, longing for community and connection during this challenging season, you are welcome here. For now, our services will be on Zoom. E-mail me at beckyzmcneil@gmail.com  or call me at 402.540.5615 and I’ll give you the link and instructions for meeting with us. If you’re having difficulty during this time, give me a call or send a text. I’ll try to help. God is with us. God is always with us.

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