THEY COULD NOT HAVE KNOWN, but a hymn they/someone chose for the annual church celebration happened to be my favorite.
Beautiful Savior, King of creation,
Son of God and Son of Man!
Truly I’d love thee, truly I’d serve thee,
Light of my soul, my joy, my crown.
And so I sang, in verse two of fair meadows. Verse three, of bright the sparkling stars on high. And the final verse—glory and honor, praise, adoration.
Only occasionally did I glimpse at the service program, at the words I’d memorized in childhood, sung decades later at my wedding. Beautiful Savior.
Everything about Sunday afternoon at Christdala Evangelical Swedish Lutheran Church in rural Millersburg was beautiful. Sunshine. The pure, clear voice of the soloist singing of saints gathering at the beautiful river. The wisps of steam rising from a percolating coffee pot that I glimpsed through a church window while sitting in a front pew. Art on the lawn by my friend Rhody Yule.
On this September day, descendants of the Gustafsons and other Swedish immigrants who founded this church in 1877 gathered to celebrate their heritage and the 1878 Gothic Revival style wood-frame church that has been preserved.
Voices raised together in song, accompanied by the 1886 pump organ, the church’s second organ. Heads tilted to hear the pastor speak: “Jesus is all about setting us free. Today you are set free.”
The clunk of wood as worshipers settled into pews. Bread dipped into wine. Bowed heads and box elder bugs.
And outside, on the lawn, ham sandwiches and lefse and cake in a lunch spread out on tables, in an open stretch of grass between gravestones.
Hugs exchanged. Here, atop a hill, they gathered—friends and family—to worship, to honor the Swedish immigrants who established this congregation, Christdala, Christ’s Valley.
© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling