Refreshing a memory
As the years pass there are some memories that I retain and others that fade. I tell some stories more often than others. Parts of some stories fall by the wayside. Once in a while something stirs a memory and I am reminded of something that I forgot. The process of preparing to move this year has brought forth a lot of memories and details about past events that had slipped into the background.
If you had asked me to tell you about the year 1985, I would have told you that it was the year we received the call to serve Wright Community Congregational United Church of Christ in Boise, Idaho. We were living in Hettinger, North Dakota and serving the United Church of Christ congregations in Hettinger and Reeder, making the 17-mile commute between the two towns several times each week. When we had moved to Hettinger we were a couple with no children. Buy 1985 we had a 4-year-old and a two-year-old. We had decided to allow our profiles to circulate in a few conferences of the church to see if there was a possibility to make a move to a bit larger congregation where we could earn a bit more. I was had worked several jobs on the side, including driving school bus and hosting a radio show. We were hoping to figure out how to make a move from living in a parsonage to beginning to own our own home. Two children meant that we needed to start saving for college and other coming expenses. After consulting with our Conference Minister, we prepared our profiles and had them sent to states in the Northwest. I still held out hopes that we might find a call to Montana, the state where we grew up and where I expected that I would serve at some point in my ministry. In the spring of the year, we began serious conversations with the church in Boise and we ended up making two trips to that city, both times driving to Rapid City and then flying from Rapid City to Denver and from there to Boise. A call was issued and in the summer we made the move into a house with our own mortgage. We lived in Boise and served Wright Church for ten years before moving to Rapid City in 1995.
That much of the story is all true, but it isn’t all of the story. As we were preparing to move from Rapid City, I was cleaning out some old files in a file cabinet where I hadn’t looked for several years. It contained files of old sermons, notes from classes we had taken, some personal records and miscellaneous papers. Many things in the files could be discarded, but there were some important papers in the files, so I needed to go through them and sort carefully. Among the files was a file on the search for a call in 1984 and 1985. I thought that I could just throw out the entire file, but decided to leaf through it. There I found a hand-written spreadsheet with the congregations that had contacted us during our search for a call. Along with the spreadsheet were notes that I had made about each of the congregations. One of the congregations caught my eye: The United Church of Ferndale, Washington. Our son and daughter-in-law have just bought a small farm near Ferndale. At the time I found the file, they were considering the purchase and telling us about the community.
Among my notes on Ferndale were notes about recreation. I was doing quite a bit of skiing at the time, so I noted that it was 60 miles from Ferndale to Mount Baker Ski Area. That was a lot closer than the 170 miles from our North Dakota home to Terry Peak Ski Area in the Black Hills. I also noted the distance to several state parks and other camping areas, as camping was also high on the list of recreational activities we enjoy. One of my notes was that Ferndale was just 12 miles from Birch Bay State Park. A park with a beach was something we couldn’t find in North Dakota and a definite attraction.
The folks in Ferndale were quite a bit behind the folks in Boise in their search. By the time their committee had a chance to read our profiles, we were in conversation with the people in Boise. Soon we sent them a letter informing them that we were withdrawing our candidacy as we had accepted the call to serve the church in Boise.
Thirty-five years later, our son moved to the farm, just 4 1/2 miles from Birch Bay State Park. I wrote him a note, telling him of the file I found and informing him that had things worked out differently he might have moved to Ferndale at the age of 4 years rather than making the move at the age of 39.
Yesterday, after visiting our grandchildren, we went for a walk on the beach at Birch Bay State Park. It is a gravel beach and we walked about a mile north along the shore and returned to our car. It was a chilly day, but the walk was pleasant. Walking on a beach is slower going than following a trail. The sand and gravel present a challenge to walking quickly and there are lots of things to see on a beach, crabs and shells and seagulls and ducks were worth watching as we walked along.
I’m sure that when I was reading the information about the church in Ferndale and looking up information about living in the community, I imagined what it might be like to walk along that beach. It took me a bit longer than I imagined to have that experience. Now that we’ve done it, I’m sure we’ll go back again. Perhaps we’ll take our camper and stay in the campground for a while. We’ll want to check out some of the seafood restaurants in the area after pandemic restrictions ease.
Now, when I tell the story of 35 years ago, there is a new detail that I have remembered that I’m sure will be included in my story.