Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Small Town Minister - ARRIVAL

Upon discovering the roots of the church I grew up in, by overhearing a casual reference made by family or friends, I asked my Mom to elaborate. This was when I was still at home. As I remember it, she said there were several people in the town's Episcopal Church that were not happy there. I'm not sure what inspired the group to start their own meetings, but they did. Perhaps there was a nearby revival they had been challenged by. Whatever the genesis, they took that step. Eventually they had their own building, and called it the Valley Community Church. It was non-denominational at first, then decided to affiliate with the Evangelical Free Church. The EFC isn't a denomination, but rather an affiliation of independent churches. (Some may quibble with the semantics, but it's an important component to the people of those churches for many reasons...a story for another time!)

I'm not sure if the pastor in the letter below was the first pastor of the church, but the letter has the sound of it. The congregation was obviously excited to have the new pastor, and wanted him to have the best they could offer.

Pastor Erickson's daughters have graciously offered to share their father's memories of those times of his early pastorate through his letters. Although he is passed on, we'll revisit those times through his words, about what it was like to be a small town minister. Read below of how the pastor and his family were welcomed, and their first impressions of St. Vincent...

Excerpt of letter written to friends by Rev Edward Erickson… February 12, 1955 (upon arriving in St Vincent January 27, 1955)…
“…We loaded up the big International truck, that the St Vincent Free church people sent down (Liberty, Nebraska), on Monday, January 24th. As big as the truck was, it looked quite inadequate to take all of our belongings. But by careful planning of the load, the good crew of men from the Pleasant Grove church led by Pastor Skoog himself, found a place for most everything, and still placed padding between, so that everything arrived here in good condition…

…arriving at St Vincent about 4 o’clock (on Thursday, January 27th). We discovered that the truck had arrived without trouble and was already unloaded. The parsonage is a fair sized house (6 rooms and bath) and it appeared for awhile to be full of boxes and boxes of our things. But we managed to find a place to sleep after having a delicious supper with the Kochendorfers, one of good families here.

The next day, with the help of some husky men here, we got the bigger and heavier furniture in its place, so by Saturday night the house was quite livable. The coldest weather of the winter had come on, so we surely appreciated the new automatic Lennox oil heating system that was just installed and completed the day we arrived. As a result the house is very comfortable even in this 20 to 28 below zero weather we have been having the past several days. I am using one of the upstairs bedrooms for a study, and Danny has his bed here also, but so far it has worked out quite well.

The church is about a block away, in this town of some 300 people. There is a Catholic and an Episcopal church besides our own. Also a Plymouth Brethren and a group of Cooneyites (commonly called 2 by 2’s) that meet in homes in the community. Most of the people we are told, consider some church as their own… The people of the community appear to be very friendly, yet I can detect that they are looking us over quite carefully…Most of our people of course are farmers, and I have been told that all but one family owns their farm. Some of the farms are quite big I understand, being a section or more. As a general rule they have good crops up here in the Red River valley, but last year the army worms did considerable damage. They were able to control some of it by airplane spraying. What seems to be the main crop, but there also are other grains, and potatoes. Some farther south in the valley they raise sugar beets too.

The first Sunday here, January 30th, we found 67 in Sunday School and a few more for the church service. Again in the evening there were about 40 out. At the Mid-week Bible Study and Prayer on Wednesday after choir practice, there were over 30 out. It is good to see such a good number for these services, bringing their Bibles with them & revealing by their questions and discussion that they had a spiritual hunger for a greater knowledge of the Word. Even last Wednesday evening when it was 20 below zero and a sharp, cutting north wind, that really would penetrate, there were 19 out.

On Friday evening, February 3rd, we were given our official welcome, by an invitation to a tasty Fellowship Supper at the church. This was followed by an informal program led by a nearby Baptist pastor, who serves in Emerson, Manitoba, Canada (we are only 2 miles from the Canadian border). After the kind & friendly welcome, to which I responded with a few words of appreciation and meditation from 1st John, concerning the blessed privilege of fellowship with the Lord and His people, we were invited to come upstairs. Upon going up, we were amazed to see a big assortment of canned stuff, flour, sugar, meat, etc. It pretty well filled our car, both in the trunk and back seat. We should not need to visit a grocery store for quite some time.

And that was not all. They gave us 100 gallons of oil for the new furnace, a new linoleum for the downstairs bedroom floor (all the other floors had some good covering of rugs or tile already furnished by the church). Then today, a new gas range (Caloric) arrived and was set up to take the place of the combination range, that was no longer needed for additional help to heat the kitchen.

This church group is only about 6 years old, but they have come a long ways, including spiritually

Our address is simply – St Vincent, Minnesota box 81 and telephone VA3-6245 (St Vincent)…”