Little Church On The Hill
A lay Preacher, and a farmer
Its ups and downs, the church has seen
Five generations, descended in the charter
Plenty of souls, at the masters feet
Our parsonage, for the youth of today
Storms through the years, mission true
For comfort and courage, seeking the lost alway
The little brick church, of people good and true
The Swedish Mission
1928 – 1937
Books: treasurer, secretary, pastor
In a white, rectangular, concrete block
Members, baptisms, deaths
The distance could tell you
Your church on the hillside
Can help us find God and Peace
When finding documents for my remix, I decided to explore some documents from my church, and the founding of the denomination. Being in a protestant church, there are several different iterations and sects of my branch, so I went over several different versions of my specific church, the Evangelical Covenant Church, to find one very specific text and one more general text. Both churches descend from the original Covenant church, which was a congregation of Swedish immigrants in Chicago, Illinois.
My first source is a business and financial charter for a church called Bethany Covenant Church, which is a form of the Covenant Church that is pretty popular across the country. I’m still unsure if this church formed as a result of a difference in religious opinion or just as an extension of a certain naming convention, but it would likely be difficult to find this information, as churches can separate and extend for any number of reasons, many of which do not involve any differences of opinion. The Bethany Covenant Church in question is from Miami, but I selected this document because I have a lot of family at a Bethany Covenant Church in Connecticut. I’ve had a number of funerals and weddings at this church, so I figured it was a good of a connection I could get to my own history. The Miami church document is relatively short, being only two pages, and being filled with mostly business language. This would make it challenging to write decent poetry from these words, so my next text I intended to make a little more wordy.
My second source is a pamphlet from the 65th anniversary of the Cleburne Mission Covenant Church in Cleburne, Kansas. This text is extremely notable because it is still titled as a “Mission Covenant Church”, which is actually the same title given to the original separation from the Lutheran Church of Sweden that became my church today. This church was founded in 1886, just shortly after the first Covenanters came to America, making this a very early church in the history of the Covenant. This church does not still exist today, so information on the church today is impossible to find. However, there is a lot of information within the actual text, as the document discusses the history of the church, and people involved, and includes lots of pictures of what they called “The Little White Church on the Hill”. The document begins with a few pictures and a poem, talking about the faith that motivated the creation of the church and what it represents to the members. Following that section, there are about 6 pages of portraits, showing all of the ministers that have passed through the church during the 60 years since the church’s founding. The pages following detail the history of the church, describing the time of each of the previously pictured ministers. The remaining pages are mostly pictures, showing different organizations within the church and people within ranking positions. While the majority of pages only include names, there was plenty of text is the leading poem and the church history to find suitable words for poetry
When writing my poetry, I found a phrase in each document that I thought encompassed my feelings on the church. The first was “Little Church on the Hill”, which technically doesn’t appear in the Cleburne text at all. The phrase is typically “Little White Church on a Hill”, but I omitted the “white” because my church isn’t white. This is both true literally (the church is brick) and in a more metaphorical sense. In the 50s, the Covenant Church was overwhelmingly white. This isn’t necessarily out of racism, as the Church was originally in Sweden before arriving in America and congregating as Swedish immigrants. However, it’s still better that the church today is far more diverse, with many of our churches being primarily minority churches. This was meant to be subtly reflected in my first poem, trying to combine the old idea of the church and the more modern meaning that the church has today. This idea is reflected in my usage of the words “the youth of today”, specifically pointing to the younger generation of the church that is going to become the future of the church, and hopefully will eliminate the issues that still exist in the church. The largest reference to this intended purpose is the final line, that takes two major phrases from the poem in the Cleburne text and modifies them to better encompass my experiences. I took the phrases “the little white church” and the “of men good and true” and changed them to “the little brick church” and “of people good and true”, having it better describe my life in the church by removing the exclusivity of “white” and “men”.
The second poem had a little less modification, as I wanted to discuss more of the similarities between the times than the differences between then and now. I began with trying to incorporate some of the business documents of the Bethany document into some semblance of poetry. I tried to describe the history of that specific church in business terms and dates, and then turned to the poem of the Cleburne text to transition into a more emotional text. I decided to take three phrases and put them together to try to make a statement about faith as a whole. Together, these previously separated phrases make “The distance could tell you, your church on the hillside can help us find God and peace”. For me, this is a representation of how inspiring the original church members were, traveling a great distance to create this church on the hill. The sheer effort and risk required for such a creation makes me feel inspired to be a member of the church, and it brings me personal peace to know that I didn’t have to travel so far for my church, and that it’s already there for me.