On the last Lord’s Day afternoon in September, we walk along the dirt trail leading down toward the barn on a small farm in Doniphan County. Thanks to unseasonable rains, the grass, weeds, trees and thorn-less blackberry vines are all as green as gourds in May. Beyond the stacked split rails of the holding pen, grayed and frayed by a dozen years of Kansas weather, a limestone bluff rises up from beyond the creek. The shades and shapes of its face bring a pleasing contrast to the forms of slopes and trees.
We avoid stepping in fresh cow manure as we walk across the dried mud of the creek bed then turn uphill toward the shed where the horses are gathered. Four mares and three geldings mill around whatever hands are holding carrots out as an offering. A couple of them come to the fence while the others follow the man around inside the lot. They are a mix of shades, mostly bays, with one blue roan. The paint mare stands out, wide slaps of white scattered over a dark brown base. We finish the petting and head back toward the house.
A single car passes on the gravel road, leading a trail of rising dust that lifts and then settles. Miles of fields stretch out across the hills, following the furrows of the earth’s shaping. We sit in the house, sharing stories, iced tea and brownies. In this two hours’ time, we learn more about each other than in two years of church meetings.
I am convinced that we may certainly share our faith in our assemblies of worship. We may very well grow together in hope as we sing songs of praise and encouragement. But if we want to cultivate a stronger fellowship, we must move beyond those confining walls. In order to build the bonds of love, we must share our lives and our hearts.