October 13, 2021
Rick Lund, Centennial Committee
If I calm my mind and close my eyes, I can almost transport myself back to another time, another era – a world some of you might find hard to fathom.
Growing up at Bethany Covenant in the 1960s, “church” began on Saturday night. That was when my family huddled around the radio to listen to “Covenant Meditations,” our church’s weekly radio show on KBRC. Once the show was over it was haircut time for my brother and I – my dad’s specialty was giving “flat tops” – followed by bath time and an early trip to bed to be well-rested for the big day.
The next morning, nattily dressed in a spiffy sport jacket and bow tie, it was off to Sunday School to hear teacher Eva Collinson spin another Bible story using flannelgraphs – scenes and characters made of felt – to illustrate the point. Then it was upstairs to the sanctuary to sing familiar hymns like “Trust and Obey,” “Great is Thy Faithfulness” and other sacred songs I knew by heart. A Rudy Leander-led choir number was followed by a sermon I seldom understood, but admired the preachers who delivered them. There was no “children’s time” during the worship service back then.
Once church was over, it was back home to my mom’s home-cooked dinner, which more often than not seemed to be pot roast. Then it was nap time, and not necessarily because all that beef had lulled us to sleep. We needed to rest up for the “next service.” In those days, Sunday evening services were just as important as Sunday morning. The pastor preached another sermon. More hymns were sung. There was more special music, which I was always glad if it didn’t include “us.” Milt Hanstad, you see, had a knack for calling my brother, sister and I up front for an impromptu trio performance.
At this point, you’re probably wondering why I didn’t eventually leave the church and never look back. I didn’t see it that way. This was my family.
There are two ways to join a family. You can either be born into a family, or adopted by a family. As a lifelong attender of Bethany, I was fortunate to have been born into a family of God.
Being a Christian is more than just a belief system. It’s a “belonger” system. Just as I was a part of my own biological family, I also belonged to my church family – the family of God. That connection was very real to me. In today’s society, in spite of technological advances, people seem “disconnected.” Nothing can take the place of connecting to God and the fellowship of believers. Our faith is not meant to be lived in isolation. A branch separated from the vine cannot grow or bear fruit.
Through all the Sunday morning – and evening – services, I rubbed shoulders with so many role models in my life. Men in the church I looked up to, wanted to emulate. Teachers and leaders like Bud Schnell, Dave Quall, Don Bottles, Dennis Swanson, Bob Elde, Mel Elde and pastors Worth Hodgin and Gary Peterson. And yes, my dad, and his dad.
Whether they knew it or not, they helped shape me. I looked at their lives, and thought “I want to be a man of integrity like him.” Or, “I want to be a family man like that guy.”
And for those influences in my life, I am forever grateful.