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Ward and Stake
Impressions of a Uniquely Churched America, 1 of 2: 10/17/21
Written thru a cloud of memory 11/1/21 in Portland, Oregon
He chopped at the arbor-vida stump. The ground was too loose and the shrub too pliant to ply out with the mattock. He was too weak to pull it out by force. He settled on using the heavy camp ax to turn the restive stump into mulch, one chop at a time.
She came to stand behind his shoulder, fearless of the rising and falling of the ax, that Bob had once kept in his saddle to dismember elk and bison, “You're working your guts out.”
He stopped and looked slightly down over his shoulder to the woman who he would have had to look up to some decades past, “I won't hurt myself. This is good exercise if I don't overdo it. Got some young men to spar with up in Portland.”
He returned to the stroke and she informed him, “You're coming to church tomorrow—already told Deb. She's coming too.”
He grinned up at her, “Yes, Ma'am.”
She smiled, “Just like that?” and then with a forced frown, “and you're not to rake—leave something for me to do...or else!”
He grinned and chopped.
They called it a chapel, and he had walked by it numerous times, right up around the bend past the graveyard.
They walked in, Arla at the head, Deb, with her beautiful granddaughters, and the refugee hood-yeti behind. A tall Nordic woman greeted Deb then looked at him, mouth agape, at seeing Deb accompanied by a man to Church, and said, “Bob?” with a note of worry in her voice.
He grinned, thinking of his oft-injured friend who yet packed more muscle on a thigh than he had distributed around his entire scrawny form and said, “Yes, Bob with cancer!”
Noting the odd accent and getting the joke with her Madison Grantesque IQ, she smiled tentatively as Deb introduced him as a distant friend.
The church was sparsely attended, only a third full. Deb informed him that they had never recovered from Covid and he noted that the church was yet packed by eastern standards of attendance.
Five men came up to him one by one and almost crushed his midget hand with shakes and introduced themselves. Two men had been among the seven or so who last year had offered him the loan of various frightening machines with which he could continue his unequal battle with the roadside tree that he spent a month chopping into chips.
A woman stopped, “You're the strange man working by the side of the road!”
Her gruff husband, the man with the “stump gun” apparently some Shiva-like mechanical destroyer of sylvan worlds, pointed to his eye patch and snarled, “Told you the stump gun was safer.”
Arla's grandson, a man who looked like former World Middleweight Champion Tony Zale with black hair, shook his hand, “So glad to see this man here. Thank you so much for helping my grandmother.”
A man who seemed to hold the station of preacher, named himself Josh and shook his hand. Arla interjected, “This is James—he works, and works hard. We can forgive him for being born in some city... God knows where...”
He noted that the average woman was his height, that they ranged from 7 to 10 on the judgment scale adjusted for age and that the men were generally the size and fitness of major league baseball players.
A binder indicating that this was one of two “wards” in town sat beneath a hymnal.
Zane, running for Mayor, who lived across the street from Bob and Deb, shook his hand, was informed of his work ethic by Arla and Deb, and then with wide eyes, as if few men made such a measure among these matrons invited him to dinner two meet “two missionary sisters” from the nearby Mission. He accepted.
The service was different than the one he would attend the following Sunday, and was said to be “short on testimony” due to the many who still attended church “on zoom,” as Arla commented, “...as if God had zoom in mind when he sent the prophets among us...”
This was the week after an annual meeting of presidents and bishops with their prophet—which sounded to him like an un-ritualized pope who talked in practical matters to his subordinates concerning The Church's relationship with the larger world. This church seemed more lateral in organization and more of a buffer between the family and the government, than other churches he had attended. He was just catching snippets of conversation, placing it in context as best he could.
Deb explained that a ward was the most local organization and that she was an alternate for the women's relief society that made food for sick, and pregnant and elderly people, that the stake was the larger organization which was usually a valley. Officials included Bishops, presidents and secretaries.
This place of worship was called a “chapel” and there was no cross on the wall behind the altar, but a squared portal framed in wood.
The following is a combination of acts he witnessed on two successive Sundays and are now muddled in his mind. The service is a strict hour, and is followed, he is told, by separate men's, women's and children's study groups.
The man he likens to a pastor frames an introduction and gives Church news. On the second week the congregation discovers that their numbers are being increased by refugees from the Basin far below near Salt Lake City, who have left their homes to live in their summer mountain homes down there all year round. They are called, “The Canyon People.”
A woman from the congregation comes to the podium and says a prayer.
The pastor sits masked to the left of the podium, the three masked men to his left seated behind a table covered with white cloth.
A singer, organist and conductor sit unmasked against the back wall. It seems that only officially assigned men and youth and boys wear masks in government accord, while the balance of the congregation and the speaker does not—an obvious compromise with the NGO-Government mask cult.
Arla grouses about the masks.
The Eucharist [called something else] is served early and is unique to his experience: the three men stand and break up bread—actual sourdough bread baked by some woman with talent.
The seven masked boys and youths take the bread around on trays and we each take a piece.
The three men then uncover the water cups in their trays and the boys and youth distribute the small cups of water in a like way.
Just like in town, there are a lot of pretty blond women who are pregnant and have blond children instead of media-mandated caramel kids without fathers. The number of intact families is staggering. And he is reminded that this is but half of the in person congregation that survived the Covid Congregationicide.
A hymn is sung.
Testimony is announced.
Numerous folk of both sexes [a place with only two sexes astonishes these days] and all ages take to the podium. They relate in a manner familiar to him from his father's Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, how their trials of life have benefited from their relationship with God. The most common reference is to God is “Heavenly Father.”
The following week the testimony segment features two designated speakers, the son and daughter-in-law, of Steve, who started a concrete business with his friend which enabled them to employ and put through college six of their sons. Wife, and then husband, spoke of times that tested their faith and quoted from scripture.
At five of the hour another hymn is sung and a blessing is said. As he leaves with Deb and shakes hands with Zane, he notes that most of the congregation is going to their certain meetings.
To be continued at Zane's place.
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ncMar 9, 2022

quote

"Just like in town, there are a lot of pretty blond women who are pregnant and have blond children instead of media-mandated caramel kids without fathers. The number of intact families is staggering."
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