Column: Connecting with God, nature and community

Joel Martin

Throughout the summer months, from Memorial Day through Labor Day weekend, Christ Lutheran in Marine on Saint Croix holds one of their Sunday worship services outside.

Thankfully the weather normally cooperates (he says with his fingers crossed for this Sunday). But even if it does rain, we just move inside.

Holding a weekly outdoor worship service during the summer has been a tradition at CLC in Marine for over 30 years. Sometimes we are asked why we go through the extra work of setting up and taking down chairs and sound equipment every Sunday. And while I don’t know the original answer, today I would simply say having an outdoor worship service connects us.

And in a world in which we seem to find more and more ways to disconnect from each other, not to mention disconnecting from any sense of place, we have realized finding ways to make connections is vitally important to our understanding of what it means to be a church.

First thing you notice being outside on Sundays is the way it connects us to the beauty of the area around us. You look out and you are surrounded by trees and blooming flowers. Depending on where you are sitting you might even be able to glimpse the St. Croix River down below.

When we have moments of silence in the service you can hear the Mill Stream water flow over a waterfall. You hear birds singing and some disgruntled squirrels chirping. And if you are not careful you realize the ‘moment’ of silence has become a minute of silence – which is maybe what everyone needed anyway.

Sitting outside together for Sunday worship connects us to the people of the community, our neighbors and those just driving through town. A week doesn’t go by without seeing people walking or biking by — sometimes they stop, most of the time they don’t.

Being outside reminds us we are not separate or apart from our community. We are ‘in’ the community. Whether it be summer or fall, winter or spring, being connected to the people and to a sense of place goes hand in hand with how we see ourselves as a church.

One of the ways we try to strengthen those connections is by finding ways to lift up, partner with, and support the community in new and needed ways.

This past Sunday at Christ Lutheran in Marine on Saint Croix we took time during our outdoor worship service to recognize the Marine Fire and EMS volunteers. The history of the volunteer fire department in Marine goes back to the 1880s.

Today it continues to be made up completely of volunteers. Their work and service often goes without notice, and at times is even taken for granted. Some of the volunteers on the fire and EMS departments are members of the church — most are not. Some are those who walk, ride or drive by without stopping or even noticing. But we are connected.

“The siren doesn’t care if it has been a hard day. The pager goes off during dinner; it goes off during the big game; it went off when you finally fell asleep. Everyone else just rolls over, but not you. You grab your gear, and go out into the night, to the fire, to the emergency, to the place, the people that need your help. You set aside your comfort and your plans, in order that someone else might have life, or hope, or comfort. You are a gift and a blessing.”

These are a few of the words we shared during the outdoor worship service last Sunday as we took time to recognize, thank and pray for the Marine Volunteer Fire and EMS personnel.

And while taking a Sunday each summer in which we recognize the volunteers who protect the community is one way in which we as a congregation express our gratitude, we also have discovered something else. We have discovered that it serves as a way to connects us — to each other, and to the sense of place we share.

Joel Martin is pastor of Christ Lutheran Church in Marine on St. Croix.