Saturday, June 26, 2010

Country Churches


Traveling across the rolling prairie it would stand out for miles, a land mark. The church steeple dominated the land, high above the plains, crowning the trees nearby. Many of these churches today are more than 100 years old and in a young country that is outstanding.
Settlers of the prairie brought their families with them when they settled on the plains. A part of their family was their religion. Many of the early settlers fled to the new world because of their religion. When they settled they built their homes and grew with the community. The community was a similar mind and they would have a church raising.
One in the community would donate some land and the neighbors would get together and build their church. A pastor would be invited to be the preacher and the church was soon completed. Next to the church, there would sometimes be a cemetery. The country church became a way of life, here the children were baptized, and there would be weddings, social gatherings and funerals. A country church was a focal point for the pioneers settling in the area.
Sundays the bell would chime for services and in front would be wagons parked, nearby was a well and tank for watering. 100 years back the horse was primary form of transportation. On Monday Bessie would be out in front of a plow or some other work, on Sunday though the horse brought the family to church. After services folks would stay for a time, visit, talk about the weather, family or crops. Coffee and fresh baked goods were to be had. The children scurried outside to run and play.
Country life years ago had a different pace and the church was part of this pace. Meetings would be held, clubs met here, classes held, country church life offered a place for the members of the community to discuss common problems and help each other. Sometimes the town was a day’s ride away or more and the parish was a good place to meet.
Neighbors would go to other churches but in cases of emergency they would come together to help each other. Somebody get hurt or sick, families would put their work aside to go help the neighbor. Food would be prepared and brought to the house, all able bodies went into the field to help, men, women and older children. Young ones were watched by older brothers and sisters while those unable to do field work prepared the food and helped in the house. Whatever it took, everybody pitched to help the neighbor.

From the Country church came this outpouring of concern for their neighbors. Helping each other was part of being in the country community and on Sunday they would gather to listen to the preacher and then visit. How are the crops, the weather, is the misses okay, how are the children doing and the talking goes on.
Across the windswept prairie there are a few of these country churches still stand, their steeple pointing to heaven, a cemetery beside it. Sometimes the church has faded into memory and the cemetery is but a reminder of an earlier day.
Five, six or seven generations have served their country church. Grandpa and Granma, along with brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles are in the cemetery. Generations of pioneers grew up working the land and on Sunday they laid down their tools to give God thanks for what He has done for them.
Hours of toil and hard work went into the land years ago. Done by hand, very few machines and the store was a long journey away. The settlers relied on themselves and helped each other to see their way on a journey few today travel.
The family bible that was purchased for Sunday was also the family record. In the bible would be the records of marriage, births, baptism and deaths. It was in God they trusted.
Reaching skyward sits many small churches, some still used others are empty. Some have caretakers, others will fade into memories. The Icon of the prairie still stands, to guide the way for those who seek.
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