The longest portion of our vacation was in Pennsylvania and the setting was as different as possible from the first days of our trip. We went from the heat, unrelenting sun, and barren landscapes of Phoenix to the hills and bridges of Pittsburgh and the fecundity of central PA. Christian got to see lightening bugs for the first time and we enjoyed the lush greenery of that part of the world - walking in the woods, enjoying the lakes and rivers, and even driving down country roads and across bridges in Pittsburgh. We stayed in a wonderful little B&B in central PA called Crampton Manor, that I would highly recommend to anyone visiting that part of Pennsylvania. My in-laws live near there and we will certainly be staying there again. We had great visits with family and friends and truly enjoyed being away. Two weeks allowed both Cheryl and me to disengage and it was good.
On July 4, we visited a United Methodist church in McConnelsburg, PA. The worship space was full and seemed representative of the small town and surrounding rural areas. The service came straight out of the 50's with very traditional music and an electronic organ. Much of the language was reflective of a conservative church from that same era with one huge exception - the pastor's sermon. While it certainly reflected that same theology and worldview, it diverged in a very significant way. His text was from the book of Jonah. The title was Praying for Osama Bin Laden.
The service was full of nods to patriotism and American civil religion and I was more than a little apprehensive about the sermon. I was afraid it would be some call to arms and revenge. Instead, the pastor called the congregation to pray for Osama Bin Laden... not that he be killed or even captured (although the pastor did say that Bin Laden needed to be held accountable for his actions), but that he would know grace. The service ended with a hymn This Is My Song, with which I was unfamiliar but I found deeply moving. The tune is Finlandia - one of my favorite hymn tunes - and the words both acknowledged patriotism and pride in our own country while seeing the humanity, pride, hopes, and dreams of others and praying for their peace as well.
It was a church that I'm sure I would not attend if I lived there but I was deeply touched by the courage of the pastor to call for actions that are clearly counter-cultural, especially in his setting, and also clearly based both in the text he was using and in the message of Jesus.