When I was the outreach coordinator at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Milwaukee, I took two of the neighborhood kids to a Winter Solstice Celebration at a big park on the other side of town. We walked on trails through the woods, stopping every now and then to read a poem or some such thing, and ended the evening with hot chocolate back at the Urban Ecology Center. It was a cold but fun event.
On the way there, one of the kids said, “Will there be bears in the park?”
“No, no bears,” I assured her.
She seemed a little disappointed: “Well, I hope we see a deer. Or at least a squirrel.”
This story gives you an idea of how far from nature my previous church experience was. Hence, I now present Never HAD I Ever: Animal Edition.
Before I moved to Litchfield, never had I ever: had so many near misses with deer (and one very large, very startling Canada goose) on the road; had a bat zooming around my house; been afraid to open my desk drawer at church for fear of finding a dead mouse; driven by sheep climbing a fence . . . you get the idea.
But perhaps the most “rural” Never HAD I Ever so far is this:
Never HAD I Ever . . . Encountered Livestock on the Church Grounds
Last spring, as I drove down the gravel road to Beckville, I encountered one of my parishioners herding a few goats. Since he is a truck driver, not a goatherd, I stopped and rolled down the window. “I found them eating the bushes. I think they belong down here,” he said with a smile. Pro tip: in the case of errant livestock, knowing where they belong is a big help.
About a month ago I was driving down the gravel road to First when another driver stopped to warn me about cattle in the road. “So, don’t hit ’em,” he advised.
I made it to church about the same time as the cows–ten or fifteen heifers. They ambled slowly but determinedly through the church lot, across the front lawn, through the cemetery, and into the neighboring field. I was glad they didn’t follow their first inclination, which seemed to be, “follow that lady in the black and white outfit into that building with the steeple.”
I kept an eye on the cows until a few wise parishioners arrived. Our conversation went something like this:
Me: “Did you see the cows?”
T: “Huh. They’re probably So-and-so’s.”
Me: “Look at the cows!”
T: “What did you do when this happened at your church in Milwaukee?”
Well, friends, for future reference, what you do is this: figure out whose cows they are; call those folks and have them come get the cows; support your custodian as he endeavors to keep the cows out of the cemetery. (Our custodian was great at this, by the way.)
And if the cows come back, you might give them some hymnals and pass the collection plate around.