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Lange: Going to Church

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It's Sunday morning in Vermont, and according to a recent national poll, a smaller percentage of our residents is in church than in any other state in the Union. Some of us find that an embarrassment; most of us, obviously, don't. Many wonder why. It shouldn't take a rocket scientist to figure it out.

Consider what our northern climate throws at us all through the year. Here it is well after the vernal equinox, and the yard on the north side of the house, where it's in shade, still has big snowbanks. If you're counting on divine providence to adjust the weather to the calendar, you're out of luck. Maple syrup makers know better than to pray for a good year. All they can do is hope for a better-than-average year, although none of them can recall if there's ever been an average year.

The summer of 1903 brought a ferocious drought; crops withered in the fields, and forest fires rampaged over the mountains. Just across Lake Champlain, in Keene Valley, New York, the Congregational church held a meeting to pray for rain. Old Orson Phelps, however, continued hoeing his garden. Mrs. Washbond, on her way to church, asked him, "Don't you think the Lord'll send us rain if we pray for it?

Orson glanced at the sky. "Ain't no use prayin' fer rain long's the wind's in the northwest."

"Well, why go to church at all? You do most Sundays."

"Pretty much just to be on the safe side."

I come from a line of missionaries, but decided early that my interests lay elsewhere. Moving to New England affirmed the wisdom of that decision.

One young Vermonter'd always wanted to be a farmer, but didn't have any money or land. So he worked two jobs and scrimped and saved, and finally was able to buy an old rundown place a few miles from town. He and his wife worked it for years, till it became one of the finest farms in the county.

The preacher stopped by one afternoon to visit. They sat side by side on the front porch, looking out on the hayfields, green pastures and Jersey cows, solid barns, and the glittering trout pool at the foot of the hill.

"Isn't it amazing, Brother," said the preacher, "what God and Man can do when they work together?"

"Yep," said the farmer. "You shoulda seen this place when just God was runnin' it."

This is Willem Lange in Montpelier, and I gotta get back to...wait a minute! Even God took today off.