This weekend means a run to Fargo, North Dakota and service at All Saint’s Mission.
Fargo isn’t anything like the movie “Fargo” which is actually set in Minnesota. Over 150,000 people live in Fargo and the surrounding towns that straddle the Red River on its journey north to Hudson’s Bay. There’s a symphony orchestra there, a domed football stadium, and no one walks around town with a piece of grass in thier mouth. There is a beautiful wildness to the open prairie unfolding to her west but Fargo has long ago ceased to be a cow town.
There are Orthodox Christians there, immigrants and thier children, converts who who have joined with them, and cradle Orthodox who by the sheer movement that is part and parcel of modern life have found thier way to the Dakotas. For over a decade they wandered, as missions often do, from place to place setting up and taking down and living the nomadic life of a community waiting for a home. Visiting Priests and Deacons would drop by from time to time bringing precious gifts, holy things for the holy, while the people watched and waited and hoped as they do to this day.
To be Orthodox in Fargo requires a certain amount of will that one cannot always find where things are more convenient. The normal things that hold a community together are not always there and the challenges of creating something new and real where it did not exist before are profound. Some churches wallow in excess, All Saint’s Mission is lean. Some Orthodox complain of the number of services in Lent. All Saint’s may have two or three and while bells will ring all over the world on Pascha, All Saint’s may be dark and still on that holy night.
So Friday night means the journey begins. We travel away from the congested city, out on to the open farmland, and then on to the edge of the Dakotas. Vespers, confessions, Matins, Divine Liturgy, and then home. How can a person do everything that needs to be done, bring every gift that needs to be shared, give all the things deserved, and meet all the needs that need to be met in one weekend? It can’t be done. But they are worth the attempt.