On our loop of the upper Midwest — through Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin — we paid visit to friends in Elk River, Minn., and Mount Horeb, Wis.
In Elk River, Tim stayed at our hosts’ house working while Gage went gadding about with his fellow seminarian, LuAnn. In Mount Horeb, Tim set up his workstation in a coffee shop while Gage went sightseeing with our friend and former colleague, Jane. (See a pattern there?)
In a providential case of eavesdropping, Tim overheard the people at the next table. Certain words caught in his ear, like “UCC” and “LGBT” and “Open and Affirming” (or ONA, the UCC’s designation of a congregation that accepts everyone regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, physical and mental abilities, etc.)
Unable to control himself, Tim later walked over and introduced himself. It turned out that the man was a minister at the UCC church in nearby Mount Vernon. He had been discussing another church’s efforts to become ONA. He invited us to come visit his church, which we did.
Mount Vernon Zwingli United Church of Christ is a lovely country church. The building is about 100 years old. The congregation is ONA, very progressive and welcoming. They recently reached out to the area’s Muslim community with a letter of support, thoughts and prayers and a denouncement of Islamophobia.
Gage and Tim offered some advice on the ONA process, which was pertinent because the other church in question has a lesbian pastor. That can complicate the process if it appears that the pastor is pushing ONA for personal reasons. We suggested that the pastor step back and let the congregation lead the process.
Other highlights of our trip to Wisconsin included dining at the Grumpy Troll and at the Hooterville Inn, a great little dive with great burgers and brats.