Lange: Going to Church

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(Host) And now we turn to our Sunday Essay. According to polls, Vermont
is the least religious state in the Union. Willem Lange thinks he knows

(Lange) 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.

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.

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."

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

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.

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