I didn’t go to church until Christmas, when it was obvious that Mr. and Mrs. Johnson were eager to have us go. Back home sometimes I had not attended for several weeks in a row, so I had not given much thought to going to church here, where I was a stranger to everyone.
The prospect of Christmas services interested me. I had enjoyed hear- ing Christmas hymns and stories at home. Mrs. Johnson hung some suits and dress shirts on the coat pegs in the pantry where we ate. We took them back to the bunkhouse to try on, and we each found a suit and shirt that fit well enough. Herman decided he would go with the Johnsons and me to the Lutheran Church. John and Ira had family in Rock Island that they would join for Christmas.
The church was a large brick building with a central bell tower in front with the main entrance below the tower. Inside the church the abundant boughs of evergreen, silver and gold ribbons, and candles dazzled me and perfumed the air. The pews rapidly filled from back to front, and a choir of singers filled the loft that rose behind the high
central pulpit. A spruce tree stood from the floor to the high ceiling on one side of the loft, filled with candles and ribbons, and a huge organ covered the front wall with pipes and a carved case. The organ began to play, filling the large room with wondrous sounds that vibrated the furniture and the many-colored glass panes in the windows. I sat in awe.
This was so much different from my little frame church in which the people refused to use instruments. People sang out in both churches though. Here they sang about Christmas with songs I had never heard, but they were beautiful. Toward the end of the service, ushers lighted candles and passed them from person to person, and the people joined in singing some songs in Swedish, which must have been about Jesus’
birth, though I didn’t understand a word. I was glad I went. It was really something!
Mrs. Johnson served Christmas dinner to all of us in the dining room—honey glazed ham, mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes, a sweet- bread dressing, corn, green beans, a variety of pickled vegetables and little fish, and many cakes, candies, and puddings. They were all laid out on a buffet and she called it a smorgasbord. We could keep going back for more of anything we wanted. Their sons were home, and all of
us made pigs of ourselves. They asked us to say whatever prayers we were used to saying, and I said Grandpa’s prayer—“Lord, bless this food for its intended use and us to thy service, and, God, save us. Amen.” The Johnsons all said a prayer in unison in Swedish, but they had taught us the English words, too. They were—“Come, Lord, Jesus, be our guest, and let this food to us be blessed. Amen.”