Saturday, February 20, 2010

Church Tourists

It was approaching Valentine's weekend, and it looked as though we were going to have a fairly standard, quiet family celebration; Fellow Traveler had requested pasta bolognese for V-Day, so I was pouring through cookbooks looking for a good recipe, and she had volunteered to make appetizers and dessert.

Then, Wednesday morning over coffee, FT suddenly said, "Wasn't that place where we had the good bolognese up north?" I thought for a moment; yes, I seemed to recall that too.

"So -- what if we just called up the Red Lion Motor Inn (our new home base in Suttons Bay when we travel in the Leelanau) and made reservations, packed our bags and just spent a long weekend up there?"

Well...knock me over with a feather. Of course that sounded like a swell idea. So off we went, Gertie in the back seat, for an excellent adventure in northern Michigan.

I am not going to detail every place we visited while on what turned out to be an almost-five-day adventure; suffice it to say we went up and down the Leelanau coastline and everywhere in between to soak up as much local culture as time would allow. But I will share our experience in church tourism.

For all the vacations and excursions to the kids' homes that we've made in our years together, FT and I have almost never had an opportunity to worship as visitors in other churches. There's always been some monkeywrench thrown in the works that's kept us from doing it during our other Leelanau trips, and other than our Christmas Eve Mass in Brooklyn the kids' somewhat jealous stewardship of our time with them limits what we do when we travel out of state. But we had promised ourselves we'd go to church this weekend no matter what.

So we did, despite some sleety-mushy snow blowing off the lake. We carefully made our way up to Northport, at the very tip of the Leelanau finger, for breakfast at one of our new discoveries, Kamp Corners Coffee inside the old Northport mill. (Toasted bagels slathered in salmon spread...real English-style scones, served with clotted cream on request...excellent coffee...a cozy setting at one end of a venerable old Northport building that has been renovated into a rental hall for weddings and parties.) We then headed to Bethany Lutheran Church on Nagoba Avenue, one of the main streets running through town. (As you can see, the photo to the side was not taken on the day we visited.) This is a very old church whose pastel interior seems to reflect a creative tension between Scandinavian sparseness and Germanic fussiness; an inlaid  painting of Jesus' ascension, framed in carved, gilded wood, provides a focal point in the otherwise plain design.

As you might expect in the middle of February, the congregation was down to about 25 -- maybe a third of whom were in the choir. A decent mix of ages, though, I thought, and a healthy gender ratio; sistahs may be doin' it for themselves these days, but I always feel sad, and a little alarmed, when I walk into a church filled with all women. Despite the small number of worshippers, though, these folks sang, and sang well, and FT actually got to participate in a sung liturgy from the ELW.

FT is not a cradle Lutheran, so some of the service was new to her, not the least of which was a Service of the Word on a Sunday morning; bummer. Because all the local churches are missing their snowbirds, this congregation is pairing up with the Episcopal church down the street for Lent, and it was rather amusing to pick up on the unspoken but nonetheless palpable angst on the part of the congregation that, for the next four weeks, they'd be expected to celebrate the Eucharist every Sunday for the sake of their Episcopal guests. ("What is up with that?" asked FT afterward, so I had to give her the short course on Pietism and liturgical renewal and general old-Lutheran cussedness regarding change of any kind.) We pondered the novelty, for us, of canned Prayers of the Church written right in the bulletin. We enjoyed the children's sermon, and were in fact happy to see kids present, in this community that's lost a lot of the younger population to economics-driven flight out of state. And we were happy to be welcomed in a genuine way by everyone from the usher to the nice lady who sat in front of us to the older gentleman who appears to have the role, found in nearly every congregation I've ever been part of, of Mr. Congeniality -- the guy who comes across the aisle to shake your hand and say, "So where you from, and what brings you up here today?"

We had a great morning there. We will be back.

Oh...and the bolognese, at Gusto's in Suttons Bay, was delicious.

1 comment:

PS (PSanafter-thought) said...

I DO think you'd like our small town church, but not our small town restaurants. I like the McD and Subway here better than some of the other restaurants. :-(