Feast your eyes. This is the view of the First Evangelical Lutheran Church, taken from the balcony during the service today. There were two beautiful things. First, the quilts. These are the quilts completed by the ladies of the church in the last year, ready to be given to the homeless, the needy, the refugee.
The other beautiful thing was the roll call of saints, members of the community who had died in the last year. Among those names was a familiar one: Ardith Woolson, probably my mother's best friend in North Platte. She and her husband Walt were frequent guests in our home; I have photos of them sharing Christmas dinner with us. We saw them when we came through NP back in 1993. I missed seeing her by just a few months; she died in August. But I was able to show her photo to her friends and share my memories of her, and Walt, and their son Alfred.
This was my fourth visit to First Lutheran, and my second service. I have been thinking quite a bit about whether this would still be my church home if we had not moved. I left the Lutheran church fifty years ago, unable to reconcile my own beliefs with church doctrine. I have been a Unitarian Universalist for 34 years. I remember our minister, Paul Johnson, staying that he left the Lutheran seminary when he realized that everything he believed about Jesus was reduced to just a comma in the Apostles' Creed. That comma between "born of the Virgin Mary" and "suffered under Pontius Pilate", which is all the reference there is to his core teachings: love God, and love your neighbor. have probably been a universalist since I was ten or eleven. I gave up on the Trinity a bit later, along with the divinity of Jesus. But I have also been a member of the same UU congregation for that entire time, through good times and bad. Community matters to me, and this community still feels like home. There aren't any more theologically liberal options here; I suspect I would not be the only person in North Platte choosing community despite differences in belief. I just don't imagine I'd be teaching Sunday School!