The Little Brown Church in Iowa

A small sign outside by the front door says, “… beverages, pets and weapons are not allowed inside of the church. Prayers are.” 

When I was driving through Iowa in early September, I saw a big brown sign for The Little Brown Church. I didn’t have a lot of extra time, but enough. Plus, “wildwood” had been a word in one of my games that morning.

I got to be inside the nicely lit dark wood trimmed sanctuary all by myself. Sitting in sunlight on a back pew I turned in the hymnal  to the song written about this place and got to hum all the way through without interruption. 

It had always been one of Dad’s favorites — I can still hear him singing “Oh come, come, come, come… .” I’d looked up the page number in the index in the back of the book, then realized it was the third hymn listed on the board up front — and probably always is.

Going through some old records of Dad’s recently, I found a handwritten note saying if the budget allowed, they should buy 50 new chairs and 40 new hymnals next year. 

Farther down in the box, I saw a note suggesting that they had done just that.

Reading the sign by the door on my way out of this historic place, I gently tugged the big coarse rope to ring the bell — it made me think of a happy bird sitting on the peak of the roof.

Later, I seemed to recall taking turns doing that with my brothers when we visited there as kids. Seems to me one or both of our parents coached us to relax a beat between tugs to let the clapper bounce to the other side of the bell of its own volition, maximizing the momentum.

I also picked up a card about the pastor’s morning brew comments on Facebook. A few days later I went back online to look at some of those five- to 10-minute daily entries. 

Loved his Scottish brogue and was intrigued by him coming from Scotland to Iowa via Florida and Texas. He spoke about the importance of being good-natured in friendship, and the possibility of far-reaching unity. 

He daily invoked a spirit of “an open heart and open mind.”

I thought of him picking up his mug in front of the poster at his desk in the manse across the street from where I’d sat, as the local church bells back home were chiming at 8 in the morning. I’d enjoyed watching the sunrise after seeing people by the window in the coffee shop.

There’d been an artful display of twigs and flowers on a picnic table. There was also a shimmery little painted rock atop a chunk of limestone. Its big smile and wide open eyes serve as a reminder of a good way to greet the day, and one another.

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