Hebrews 12: 1-2
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God."
Reflection by Quinn G. Caldwell
In the UCC, we're fond of making lists of the members of our denomination and its predecessors who did something pioneering while following the great Pioneer. You know them: Lemuel, Phillis, Antoinette, Bill, and the rest. But there's one pioneer I have never yet seen on one of those lists: Laura.
Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867-1957) was noted first as an author of home and farming advice. Later, she became famous for her "Little House" books, which chronicle her pioneer childhood. As the family struggled, and sometimes failed, to build a life and a civilization, it was their sturdy Christian faith that got them through. What many don't know is that the Ingalls were Congregationalists, a predecessor tradition of our UCC.
In Plum Creek, MN, Pa and Ma were charter members of the Congregational church. Once when Pa badly needed new boots for the winter, he went to town to buy them, and returned to announce he had given his boot money to enable the new church to buy a bell (remember that when you're deciding between increasing your pledge and going on vacation this year). Later, Pa's bell was given to the Lutheran church in town and still proudly calls the world to worship.
Later, the Ingalls' living room held the very first church service ever in the town of De Smet, SD. Pa, Ma, and eldest child Mary would go on to be charter members of the new Congregational Church there. If you're ever passing through De Smet, I bet the good people of the First Congregational United Church of Christ, still going strong, would be happy to tell you all about it.
Laura would later become a Methodist when she discovered, disappointingly, that the town to which she and her husband had moved had no Congregational church. But the sturdy Congregational Christianity her parents had given her, and had planted all over the frontier, would stay with her always.
(Fun extra credit for Little House nerds: get a taste of Laura's faith - and some good advice - by checking out these notations from her Bible.)
Dear Lord, thank you for pioneers of every sort, but especially for Pa and Ma and Laura. And please forgive Nellie for being so mean. Amen.