DURING THE PAST FEW YEARS, whenever I spot an old country church and have the time to stop and photograph it, I do.
I possess a sincere appreciation for the history, architecture, beauty and art found in these rural houses of worship.
There’s also something about a church in the country that exudes a deep sense of peace not found in a church built in a town and surrounded by homes or businesses, confined by concrete or pavement.
In the country, a church feels more closely connected to God by the sky, the land, the stirring of the wind through the trees, the background buzz of bugs on an end-of-summer day.
Serene. Peaceful. Calm. A certain sense of comfort comes from walking through a country churchyard, through the adjoining cemetery that links to farm fields where congregational forefathers worked the land and, on Sunday mornings, paused to thank God for the blessings bestowed upon them.
Most times on these brief visits to country churches, I find the doors locked. It wasn’t always this way. Perhaps even a decade ago, I could have walked inside. But times are different. Worry about theft requires locked doors.
So I can only imagine the sun streaming through stained glass windows, the worn pews, the ornate altar, the frayed rope of the bell pull.
As I circle the church exterior, I consider the families that have come together here to celebrate baptisms and marriages and to mourn the loss of loved ones. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
Here, standing with my feet planted next to the church next to a corn or soybean field overlooking the picturesque countryside, I can feel the almighty presence of God the Creator as I contemplate words from “Beautiful Savior,” my favorite hymn:
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.
Fair are the meadows, Fair are the woodlands, Robed in flow’rs of blooming spring;
Jesus is fairer, Jesus is purer,
He makes our sorr’wing spirit sing.
© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling
Verses one and two of “Beautiful Savior” are from The Lutheran Worship hymnal.