Monday, March 12, 2007

Days Like This!

"Mama said there'd be days like this,
there'd be days like this, my mama said..."

...but she didn't say anything about weeks like this, or even months like this. Egads!

North Dakota in March is a strange and unpredictable place. One minute you're freezing your eyeballs out and the next minute you're awash in a sea of mud and melting snow runoff without the benefit of adequate storm drainage systems. Life takes on this odd rhythm that I'm sure is somehow linked to the precocious patterns of the weather.

In "Little, Little Town," the mood is stormy. Tonight is the final vote on closing our school. In all reality we merged with the larger district in the south of the county last year, but somehow not all the folks in "Little, Little Town" realized the implications of the merger--especially that if our K-6 campus couldn't maintain a certain number of students the board "may" reassign those students to the main campus in "Little Big Town." The board has taken the word "may" to mean "shall," while the residents of "Little, Little Town" heard hope. The school is the largest employer in "Little, Little Town," so people will lose jobs, and another empty shell of a landmark will grace the northern plains horizon. Some folks are calling it (quite dramatically, I think) a crucifixion. Others are ignoring it and pretending it isn't happening. Still others are saying we have no options and it's simply a fact of life in a dwindling area.

The thing that disturbs me about the whole issue is the decided lack of vision and willingness to be innovative. There is here a sort of collective malaise, a resignation, and a sense of inferiority that is absolutely maddening to the "outsider." As pastor, citizen, parent, and newcomer, I walk this fine line of what I can and cannot say, what is appropriate and inappropriate, and what would be politicizing from the pulpit. I've alternated between taking tearful, angry calls from parishioners to keeping my mouth shut in front of another parishioner who is on the board that's decided to close the school. So now there will be grief issues to deal with that are as insidious as cancer within the parish body and the community.

Add to that the personal dilemma of having eldest daughter home from college for a week. She was bored to tears within 24 hours and settling back into the familiar pattern of sparring with youngest daughter (who's 13 with a vengeance and resenting the encroachment upon her queen bee status). Both of them complain with great gusto about Single Pastor Mom's vocational responsibilities.

And to top it all off, beloved patriarch of close-knit farm dynasty dies at 6:00 a.m. in hospital 23 miles away. The family has me called at 3:00 a.m., but do I hear the phone? No. Does said hospital also call my cell phone which was on my nightstand? Of course not. Fortunately they do call a colleague in "Bigger Little Town" who is pastor to one of the children, and she was able to be with them. I know I can't be all things to all people, but events like this are frustrating. Thankfully, on Sunday afternoon, I was able to take communion to the hospital, so that the family (who filled the room and hall) were able to share the meal with beloved patriarch. It was truly one of the most touching things I've experienced to watch beloved matriarch help her husband receive the wine and real presence of Christ. This will be a hard funeral in one sense, but it will be a celebration, as well. We'll be opening up one of the buildings from a congregation closed some years ago for the service--out on open prairie with a commanding view and a cemetary surrounded by the sheltering presence of tall evergreens.

Enough venting for one Monday morning. At least I'm now fully awake and ready to start on funeral homily notes, sermon prep for the Fourth Sunday in Lent, homily prep for Wednesday evening prayer, and confirmation prep. Will Easter ever really get here?


Sally said...

wow- what a day, it can be challenging being the pastor and the incommer- let alone being caught between two warring daughters! Prayers for wisdom and peace.

LutheranChik said...

Oh, my goodness -- I nearly wrote a post on my own blog, using very similar language, about the rural malaise in my own community; the low self-expectations, the lack of initiative, the inertia, the resignation, the inward-turned-ness. Happily, this isn't as true in my own congregation as it is in the population in general; but it's like a depressive cloud that hangs over all our heads all the time here in Outer Podunk and all of outstate Michigan.

smkyqtzxtl said...

I'm in northwestern rural PA, we just received a new student in our school and church from North Dakoka. I told her, I had never met a child who had lived in ND before! It's cold here too, and rainy and snowy and very March on the great lakes. Shalom