Monday, November 14, 2005

Deja Vu -- And Sauerkraut Too

I was back at my childhood church this evening.

Tonight was its annual sauerkraut-and-sausage supper -- a sort of Teutonic bangers-and-mash-fest with sauerkraut, plus baked beans, pickles, bread and pies; everything made completely from scratch, including the sausage. It's a Big Event in our community; signboards all over town, the church parking lots full and more cars lined up along the street. The church schedules the sauerkraut supper the evening before opening day of the firearm deer season, to attract visiting downstate hunters. I make the annual pilgrimmage for takeout, for my mom and me.

It's interesting going back to a church you used to attend after a long time away, especially when you've become estranged from its theology and mindset. My mother still sometimes calls it "our church," even though it hasn't been my church in well over 20 years and hasn't been hers for a long time either. Since I've been a grownup, I associate it mostly with family funerals.

But tonight I passed through its doors on a happy mission (for my palate if not for my arteries or my waistline). I passed the classroom where I had Sunday School with my mom as my teacher; another classroom where our confirmation class met. The church building has doubled in size since I was a kid -- they have a big activity center and extra meeting space now -- but the place smelled the same -- an olfactory mixture of candle wax and bulletin-paper and and coffee (tonight, of course, suffused with the aroma of sauerkraut and browning sausage).

As I moved through the takeout line, I saw that the cashier was a family friend -- her family had known my dad's family pretty much since they'd both landed in the immigrant-German neighborhood in this county. We exchanged somewhat awkward pleasantries; anyone familiar with internecine Lutheran slap-fighting knows what it's like for a Missouri Synodian to jump the denominational fence to the ELCA -- technically speaking you're no longer allowed to commune in an LCMS church (although there's a certain amount of "don't ask; don't tell"), and you're pretty much treated as if you've gone over to the dark side.

When asked by her old church acquaintances where she's been my mother says, "Oh, I go to church with my daughter now," so I know I am seen as The Corrupting Influence in this particular church circle; that's fine by me. Kind of flattering, considering. And the way I see it, radical hospitality works both ways, so I'd like to think that the church ladies felt they were ministering to me in my condition of spiritual peril, by plying me with Wurst and pie, in hopes that one day I'll awaken from my benighted state and return to the One True Church, mother in tow, to the strains of "Softly and Tenderly."

Then again, maybe they just wanted my $16.

It was a good dinner. "We can't believe we ate the whole thing."


Anonymous said...

Sorry, LC, but could you translate ECLA and LCMS !!!

Though the internicene church warfare sounds much the same as it does over here!!! Charismatic-slain-in-the-spirit-waving arms versus hymnbooks-organs-traditional-vestments!!

Wouldn't think we worshipped the same trinitarian God, would you???

Nicodemia said...

Sorry, the above is from me, Nicodemia, hit the wrong key!!

Emily said...

Teutonic bangers and mash fest, LOL!

Working in the St. Louis area, and in a parish that shared its building with an ELCA congregation that was formed out of a MO Synod congregation, with a Seminex pastor, was eye-opening. So much of what you're describing was part of their history.

Rachel's Big Dunk said...

Next year, we want pictures of the dinner!


LutheranChik said...

Emily...ah, you've been in the belly of the beast then! LOL

Nic: The LCMS had its origins in the Pietist movement within Lutheranism back in Germany in the 1800's...basically these were dissenters, what we'd now call "conservative evangelicals," who were unhappy with the theological liberalism and general spiritual complacency they perceived in the state church. Many of them emigrated to the U.S. There's a very exilic mentality in the LCMS; they see themselves as a people "called out," and responsible for maintaining an inerrant view of Scripture and maintaining Lutheran doctrinal purity. They prohibit "unionism," i.e., close ecumenical relationships with other church bodies, even other Lutheran church bodies. When I was growing up, we could only join Boy or Girl Scout troops sponsored by an LCMS congregation; our youth couldn't participate in the local CROP Walk, because the Methodists were in charge of that, and...well, you know. Stuff like that. They limit the participation of women in the life of the church -- in some congregations I understand women still can't vote in congregational matters or, worse, they got the vote back in the 60's and 70's but then had that rescinded in later decades. With the disclaimer that this is a broad brush, and that I do know progressive LCMS folks...a lot of them are like Southern Baptists with sacraments and tat.;-), just as a comparison. (Waiting for the angry e-mails to arrive...)

jo(e) said...

I now have this craving for sauerkraut.

LutheranChik said...

When made right it isn't sour...just pleasingly tangy.

I had a friend whose husband cured it in jars, instead of the old-fashioned crock method. Really good sauerkraut. I've never attempted this. (My last experiment with fermenting my own food on purpose was a sourdough "yeast beast" back in my college days.)

LutherPunk said...

Ok, the real pressing question revolves around wether or not there were apples in the kraut. I had this for the first time a couple of years ago and it was amazing. The granny smith apples added tanginess and sweetness and made for a happy Reformation Day.

LutheranChik said...

No apples...just applesauce on the side. But I do like apples in my kraut. I'm the only one in my family who does...whenever I tried embellishing with fruit, juniper berry, etc., my parents hated it.

My boss makes an incredible sauerkraut dish. It consists of kraut and a bit of noncured shredded cabbage plus pretty much every kind of pork and pork product you can think of -- pork steak, bacon, bratwurst, kielbasa, etc. -- apple, onion, dillweed and I think some thyme. She puts it all in a roaster and just cooks the heck out of it. It could infarct a bear, I think, but it's mighty tasty.

Rainbow Pastor said...

Lutheranchik, wow, we have so much we could talk about! I have (well, used to have...long story) a good friend who was LCMS. She was training for the diaconate (I think that was the term). Her pastor was very liberal, would serve me communion when I came to church with her, even though he knew I was not only a (whisper it) Methodist, but a seminarian who planned to be ordained!! And a female!! He jokingly even offered me the associate pastor position when it came open, soon before I graduated. I said something about the synod not approving that, and he very seriously said it was just a matter of time. Great guy!

And I had sauerkraut, potatoes and kielbasa just yesterday..cooked it myself...

Not a month ago I was back at my home church, too. It is very evocative, wandering those halls and rooms and seeing the changes (or not), nad seeing your friends' parents grown suddenly old (well, it's just that you haven't seen them in twenty-five years...).

Where in Michigan are you? I grew up near Lansing.

Whoa, this is almost another blog...I'll shut up now, it's time for Law and Order, anyway! (grin)

LutheranChik said...

RP: Lift up your right hand;-) (to non-Michiganians and especially those of you "across the pond" -- this is how we give directions)...I'm a bit over 100 miles north of Lansing, in that upper quadrant of palm.

Hey, I used to live in East Lansing. Ever been in Martin Luther Chapel or University Lutheran Church? Those were my respective college-era church hangouts.

I don't get down there very much, although I did make it to Okemos this summer to meet a fellow blogger for lunch. Chocolate cheese and ice cream from the MSU dairy, and dorm granola...three comfort foods I miss from my misspent youth.

Susan said...

Last time I visited the "church I grew up in" I attended the Saturday evening service. I saw a childhood friend and we mused about several things and I, always amazed at the way I am still, after over 20 years, able to participate in the liturgy without opening the hymnal, commented regarding this. She informed me at that point that they'd been using the Saturday night service as the service that continued to use the "old liturgy!" I was horrified to learn that I am now old enough to be relegated to "the other service..."

I relish the '70's cookbooks published by my mother's old Circle group...recipies for the best Wurst abound! mmmmmmm....

LutheranChik said...

Oh, I'm as old as dirt, myself;-), and I still remember the vintage blue-book Lutheran Hymnal sung liturgy pretty much fact, during my Christianity lapse of several years ago those words and melodies would insert themselves in my head, annoyingly, at the oddest times, and drive me crazy;-): "Stop it! Stop it! Stop it! Make it go away!" LOL

I have a couple of battered Lutheran-church-ladies cookbooks that I treasure, even though they're heavy on the Jello salads and light on the foods I can actually eat without incurring the wrath of my doctor.;-)

Rainbow Pastor said...

Hey, Okemos is my home town!
Yep, I too remember the chocolate cheese and ice cream at the MSU dairy store fondly. My dad taught at MSU (nat sci) which is prolly why I went to UM!! LOL

Rainbow Pastor said...

Forgot to say that I have been in University Lutheran, at least once, for a joint choir concert...don't ask me what we sang, that was waaay too long ago. I went to Okemos Community Church.
Nostalgia is overflowing here, especially since I'll be back in Okemos next week for T'giving with my mom and sister (who still live in Okemos).

LutheranChik said...

Wow! Yeah, I was at the Traveler's Club & Tuba Museum.

Yes...other reminiscences from my years in East Lansing: the MSU carillon; the tai chi and morris dancing clubs that used to do their thing on the green next to the carillon; the CATA bus system (which is actually a pleasant experience riding); the MSU botanical and horticultural gardens, where I spent many hours of happy "moodling"; the party store that used to be on the corner of Grand River and Bailey, that used to have humorous handmade signs next to their merchandise; the old campus buildings (I lived, unsurprisingly, in the "Virgin Isles" on West Circle Drive)...Olde Worlde cafe...I could go on and on! It's changed so much over the years.

Wash Lady said...

Right before my hubby and I were married (5 years ago) we visited a LCMS here in this town because I wanted to attend a Lutheran church.

We left before the opening hymn :(

The usher came over to us and instead of saying "hello and welcome" he said something that still stings to this day.
He told us that in order to be welcomed at the rail - we'd have to meet with the pastor in advance to make sure we met the 'qualifications' of recieving the sacrament. I took one look at my hubby and he said, "let's go" and we've never been back.

That made me sad and still does when I think of it.

J.C. Fisher said...

wash lady, that would make anyone sad (starting w/ Jesus, Whose sacrament it is, and Whose invite is INFINITE: the "Misery Synod" Luths apparently didn't get the memo :-( )

Happy memories of Travelers Club (in Okemos) w/ LC this past sunny July (now that we're hunkered down for another interminable Mich winter...)