On the home page of this, my website, I wrote “it is right and fitting” at this time to tell my story. What I really wanted to say was “it is meat, rice, and salad dressing,” but that would take some explanation. Here it is. If, like me, you grew up in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod in the 1950s and ’60s, you might recognize the above menu as a parody of the Order of Service with communion from the Lutheran Hymnal published by Concordia Publishing House in 1941. Every Sunday, the minister would announce that “it is truly meet, right and salutary that we should in all time and in all places give thanks to thee, O Lord.” As a young Good German Lutheran, I understood what was right and could guess at what might be salutary. But I hadn’t a clue how something might be meet. The list of food objects made more sense.
Food was important to Good German Lutherans, whether it was church potlucks or big family dinners on Sundays and holidays. Eating together creates community, especially when it extends the bonds of family out into the neighborhood and beyond. Community is another strong point of being a Good German Lutheran. Lutherans know how to create community and how to maintain it, even in the face of disputation and disagreement. Say what you will about parochial religiosity, but do not underestimate the bedrock value of belonging when it is connected to shared beliefs and the commitment to break bread.
DrDosido claims goodgermanlutheran (my sister and I were convinced it was single word) as his ethnicity. Those are my people. It is from them that I learned what is important in life. It is hard to help an outsider fathom the amazing power of a visit back to Hoagland (see earlier post on “They didn’t know it yet”) when some member of any generation will recognize me as “Wade and Mildred’s boy” and then converse about people and places as if I haven’t been away for forty years. It was there in Hoagland that I learned the strength of face-to-face community, the integral values of compassion and humility, and the vital importance of collective celebrations.
As I entered my teenage years I expressed several life goals that grew out of those values. As I got ready to go off to college, I announced that I intended to become a teacher. I fulfilled that objective, but in a way I never could have imagined in 1968. A few years before that, I told my mom that when I got to college I wanted to be a Freedom Rider or go south to register Black voters if the Mississippi Summer of Freedom could last a few more years. Mom approved. Whether I have made a substantive contribution to the cause of justice and social change is subject to debate.
Finally, in a summary statement of the values I learned growing up in Hoagland, I also announced that a life goal was to play in a wedding band (see earlier post). I have met this goal many times over. But not in my hometown. Though every time I play for someone’s wedding or celebration, most often involving the simple joys of old-time square dancing, I know I am extending the Good German Lutheran values of Hoagland into neighborhoods beyond my home community. This is most certainly true.