“Oh, come, come, come. Come to the church by the wildwood.” That line’s from our favorite Sunday School hymn when we got to pick one. While we can’t sing, it still “gets us in the spirit.”
Reflection came Saturday night when we sadly gathered for the last summer picnic of the church where Mom, our grandparents and family attended eight decades ago.
Influence of Emmanuel Church in rural Wabaunsee County southeast of Alta Vista spread faith to many generations in its 134 years. We attended with our aunt, uncle and cousins in the early ’50s, and tagged along as Mom never missed the Germany Picnic at Emmanuel.
Light bulbs were strung from trees around the one-room churchyard with its cemetery just feet away. One-by-twelves were set up on barrels for a counter, as menfolk grilled hamburgers from homegrown beef, while the seemingly bottomless lemonade tub, with freshly squeezed lemons floating, provided cool refreshment.
Hand cranks started churning homemade ice cream early, with fresh cows’ milk and cream provided by church goers, flavored by homegrown strawberries, peaches, and blueberries, creating supper highlight.
Turtle races, ring toss and beanbag pitch with canes for winners were most important to us then, but the country church programs on hayrack stage, opened by preacher’s prayer, featuring young to old singing, acting and everything in between, are quite memorable.
Started in 1880 by German immigrants, Emmanuel Church was erected in 1889 with member and community contributions from 50 cents to $50. Originally, sermons were said in German as men sat on one side, and women on the other. Ministers started using English in 1917, when Germany was at war in Europe
The Germany Picnic was celebrated annually from the beginning, with more than 600 attending some years.
Our grandson was baptized at Emmanuel, and we’ve again partaken the picnic in recent times. Emmanuel Church felt resurgence Saturday evening with pews filled, and the kitchen addition overflowing
Reflections were of baptisms, marriages, funerals, Saturday and Sunday services, happy times and the sad.
Despite efforts to continue, the “little white church by the side of the road” is closed. Yet, the faith spread for generations continues into eternity.
Reminds us of First Timothy 3:15: “Church is the family of the living God.” Therefore, Psalm 100:5: “His faith and truth endure to all generations.”