Maybe there was this much Christmas all around me in St. Paul but I was oblivious or my attention dissipated by so many other distractions. I went to church in St. Paul -being among the social justice side of the religious left. So it's not like I found church in Big Stone County. But I will tell you that there is something refreshing about the lack of self censorship here. An innocent indulgence in the spirit of Christmas among grown ups and kids.
We drove out our driveway and three miles into the dark prairie-- through the low marshlands to the south and up to Eidskog Lutheran church. As isolated as any prairie church could be-- not even the occasional farmstead light along the way. We parked on the road and crunched through the night snow. We walked into the church ablaze with light and the smell of coffee coming from the basement fellowship "hall." The smell of coffee permeating from the very walls from 120 years of egg coffee brewed by generations of sturdy old world women. There were over 200 people seated in this isolated country church. We sang and listened to Christmas hymns and heard people's stories and memories of the songs they offered up. Then we moved downstairs in a rush of talking and laughter for coffee, sloppy joes, pickles, and Christmas cookies. Can you smell it?
No offering asked for.
That was the first of three hymn sings I've been to close to our farm. Aside-- in St. Paul I wasn't even asked to audition for the choir. Here a couple people told me I had a lovely voice. It's a fair, alto voice-- but here I join a choir a bit more scant. And I try very seriously to blend in remembering the women from out of town singing soprano solos amidst the congregation-- their lovely lilting voices lifted to God and the enjoyment hearing themselves standing out.