by Gary Rollins
LA VETA- Summer is that wonderful time when many flatlander families from Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas pack up and head for the hills, leaving humidity, mosquitoes and – need we mention? – oppressive, depressing, stifling heat – behind.
In this particular case, the hills to which they excitedly flee each year are the beautiful Spanish Peaks in Southern Colorado. This is an event that has been happening each and every year for most of the past fifty years. And in the case of the Jayhawkers, even longer! (Welcome back to Huerfano County, Little Kansans!)
That same phenomenon simultaneously occurs in the charming hamlet of Carmel-by-the-Sea out there on the Left Coast, where tourists sometimes delay their sojourn to Pebble Beach and Carmel’s shopping village in favor of first visiting the now-famous Church of the Wayfarer. It may surprise you to know the Church of the Wayfarer is one of California’s most popular visitor attractions.
And what do the Church of the Wayfarer in Carmel and the St. Benedict Episcopal Church in La Veta have in common?
Well, both are jam-packed during the summer months with visitors of all faiths who come to worship. One is poised at the edge of the Pacific Ocean and the other is at the foot of the West Spanish Peak. Both offer a wide welcome mat for summertime worshipers. But, everyone is warmly welcomed in both Carmel-by-the-Sea and La Veta.
Rev. Lyn Burns, St. Benedict’s vicar, commented, “We are absolutely delighted to have a large portion of our congregation’s membership come to worship with us during their summer vacations. We are blessed with having a warm, receptive congregation who eagerly welcome the summertime visitors. Although we have a small church, we truly have a big heart.” Even though the church is quite small – by any standards – there always miraculously seems to be a place for every worshiper.
That was the very thought that stimulated St. Benedict Episcopal Church to reach out and extend a warm, enthusiastic welcome to each and every person who finds their way to the tiny church at 113 W. Field St. in La Veta.
“Tiny church. Big heart.” It has such a nice ring to it.
And so the invitation was issued as the school year ended and summertime officially began. The worshipers came in increasing numbers. So encouraging was the response that Rev. Burns proudly shared the revelation that it was determined the worshiping needs of all could be best accommodated by increasing the Sunday service schedule from one to two.
There are surely some vacationing worshipers who would welcome the opportunity to attend church earlier in the day, in order to make better recreational use of the time remaining on Sunday to enjoy the many things that make the Spanish Peaks an exceptional place to visit. Therefore, worshipers are now invited to attend either the 8 am or the 10 am service, whichever works best for each family.
The earlier service is a bit shorter – slightly less music than later in the morning – and, at both services, worshipers are invited to participate in the Eucharist should they so desire.
La Veta’s tiny church on Field Street has become a landmark for visitors to Huerfano Valley and summertime worshipers like Jene and Anita Moore. They spend the winter months at their home in Kerrville, TX, and confess they eagerly look forward to the summertime services at St. Benedict and to renewing the many friendships that have grown over the years.
The bright red door at St. Benedict stands wide open each and every Sunday. The music is outstanding and the enthusiasm that accompanies the worship is truly infectious.
Rev. Burns noted, “There are only two types of visitors who come to our fine community. Those who have visited and worshipped with us at St. Benedict, and those whom we think will someday accept our invitation to join with us and make their weekends truly complete.”
All are welcome at the tiny church with the big heart in La Veta.