Storing Up for the Long Haul

When I started in ministry, my husband and I were pastors of two small rural churches in West Central Illinois. We are both natives of Central Illinois, but neither of us grew up on farms. We knew a little about farming, though, because you cannot drive out of a city without passing through corn and soybean fields. Our fathers both had huge gardens and his mom and my grandma did all kinds of canning and preserving. We were kind of “farm adjacent.”
But we had to learn a new language and learn the kinds of folk wisdom that arises in any culture when we worked with farmers as their pastors. Learning that folk wisdom is very important in any culture since people will think that you don’t know anything if you don’t know the very basics. For instance, during the first few months we were there, someone invited us to dinner on Sunday. I asked what time. The person just stared at me for a minute and then said, “Right after church.” I was still learning that dinner is a midday meal; lunch is a snack any time of the day; and supper happens in the evening when the chores are done.
We were also reminded of an expression that lots of our new friends used. While we were being driven around to see the territory (on a hot August day) the smell of a feedlot drifted into the car. The woman sitting in the back seat with me said to me, “You know what that smell is?” I told her I was pretty sure. She said. “That’s the smell of money.”
Another piece of folk wisdom that I learned there seems relevant in the circumstance in which we find ourselves right now with regard to the pandemic. Apparently, this is a fact that every farmer knows. One must have at least half of the hay or fodder that you have stored up for the winter still available in February to make it through until the spring. When the days get a little longer and the sun is a little warmer in February, we are mistaken if we think we are near the end of the hard days of winter. A farmer cannot replace the hay and fodder until well into the spring months when the alfalfa or grass has grown long enough to mow and bale. February may make it seem like the worst is almost over but there is a long road ahead.
We may feel like the end is so near that we can feel it approaching when we think about the pandemic. But we need to have at least half of our stores of resilience and patience and creativity left in the barn for the months that lie ahead. There will be starts and stops to returning. There will be people who never come back to church. There will be funerals and weddings that have been put on hold that may or may not satisfy the spiritual needs of those involved. Every congregation needs to be rethinking its call to ministry and finding what is essential and what can be set aside.
Do you have enough left in your barn for the months that lie ahead? How will you replenish your physical stamina, your spiritual well, your resilient abilities? Support one another in the times that lie ahead as we continue to find ways to bring hope in the name of Jesus—even to ourselves.
The Rev. Susan (Sue) Krummel
Executive Presbyter, Presbytery of Chicago