Old Stone Well Farm

A Celtic Advent Begins

Observing a Celtic Advent has become a tradition here at Old Stone Well Farm. Beginning on Nov. 15, Celtic Advent is often referred to as a “Winter Lent,” as there are 40 days which leads to the celebration of Christ’s birth.

The Celts used this time to embrace each ordinary day as holy and to ponder Christ’s arrival in the world, in our hearts and his promise to return again. So join me as we begin our Celtic Advent.

Share this new tradition with others and, if you would, please like the YouTube page and consider subscribing. I would love to start 2022 with a channel for Old Stone Well Farm.

Blessings! Donna

This Way of Life Lenten Journey

A Little White Church Lenten Journey

When the cold of winter turns into the bleakness of mud season, hope is hard to find. Yet beneath the hard ground and in the midst of life’s muddiness, there is always new life waiting to bloom. Join Pastor Donna as she reflects on the transforming power of Lent and takes you on a 40-day journey of discovering God’s message of hope and renewal that she discovered in a little white church and in the hearts of the people who called that church “home.”

Day 3: Go Now in Peace

There’s a song the little white church would sing every week at the very end of worship. It was called “Go Now in Peace.” I had never heard of this song before nor have I ever worshipped or worked in a church in which a choral benediction was sung. So the first time I experienced this choral benediction it was indeed quite memorable.

It was the Sunday I preached for the congregation as their prospective new minister. Boy was I nervous. Would they like me? Would they be pleased with my sermon? I knew it really wasn’t about me but about God’s Spirit at work leading us both to the right partnership, but still, you can’t stop that tape playing in your head that they are looking at you and not beyond to what God is leading them to. Anyway, I gave the blessing and as the music began to play for the choral benediction, I walked to the back of the sanctuary. That’s when it happened. A divine moment. I stood there the soon-to-be next minister of the little white church and I looked out at people that God was bringing into my life to lead and to learn from. I stood and listened to their voices sing a song I was not familiar with.

Go now in peace. Never be afraid. God will be with you each hour of every day. Reach out to others…

I watched and listened to them sing this song that many knew by heart. And I wondered. How many really believed the words they were singing? Were they afraid? Did they know God was there each hour of every day? Were they reaching out to others?

I wondered about these people I had yet come to know, had yet to be there in their griefs, had yet to be their in their joys, had yet to journey with them in faith.

But as I listened I felt something there in the sanctuary. I felt a strange movement of the Spirit I had never felt before. It was as soft as breeze, but I realized then the Spirit was just beginning to move and among these people something powerful was going to emerge. Voices that were singing hesitantly were on the verge of singing boldly.

The vote to become the next pastor of the little white was unanimous and I walked back to the front of the sanctuary that God knew I—an avid lover of 18th architecture—would appreciate. I looked out at those gathered in the colonial era white wooden pews still with the doors attached and lifted my hands to give the blessing. As I did I felt that gentle breeze of the Spirit pick up a bit more.

“Go now in peace. Know He will guide you in all you do,” I said, borrowing from the choral benediction that was a little white church tradition.

Our ministry had began and as days turned into weeks that turned into months that turned into years, the Spirit’s breeze kept blowing and leading and waking hearts up. And then it happened.

One Sunday in Lent as the little white church sang their traditional choral benediction, I had yet another divine moment—a moment that almost brought tears to my eyes.

I heard their voices sing as I never heard before. This time I clearly heard voices that were stronger in aith and voices that were singing the words, “Reach out to others…” with conviction and passion. The words weren’t just words sung by rote. The words were being sung out of the experiences that we had together, experiences of growing in our faith together and experiences of really reaching out beyond our own doors and into the community. The words had come to life.

I stopped singing at one point and just stared at the cross on the communion table, listening to the strength and conviction that was coming out of the voices of the many men and women and children gathered for worship.

“God,” I said, “Can you hear them? Can you hear the belief in their voice? Can you hear the strength? Can you hear the love? Can you hear the determination to really reach out to others so all the world can see? God can you hear your children coming alive by your Spirit moving among them?”

I then lifted my eyes from the cross and looked over at all who were singing and noticed not only were their voices strong, but their faces were transformed. They were shining. Some people had their eyes closed, some had their eyes lifted up towards heaven and one man in my congregation did what he has done since the first day I came to the little white church. At the moment in the song when we sang, “God will be there, watching from above…” this man, in true devotion to God, always lifted his hands up towards heaven.

I carry this memory close to my heart because whenever I find myself wondering where God is or questioning the movement of the Spirit in my life because I haven’t felt any gentle breeze against my skin, I can close my eyes and go back to the little white church and hear the voices of God’s children sing.

I can remember how I was priviledged to see God’s Spirit breathing new life into tired bones and how words once sang by rote became words of transformation and new life.

God will be with you each hour of every day…

In this season of Lent, as we are invited to enter into the wilderness, let us not be afaid. Rather as we walk let us become aware of how closely God watches over us and how wonderfully God leads us. And may the song you sing along the way be sung with newfound strength, love and conviction.

Go now in peace. Never be afraid. 


God will go with you each hour of every day. 


Go now in faith, steadfast, strong and true. 


Know He will guide you in all you do. 


Go now in love, and show you believe. 


Reach out to others so all the world can see. 


God will be there watching from above.


Go now in peace, in faith, and in love.

 

This Way of Life Lenten Challenge: Is your walk with God drudgery? Are you tired? Are you wondering where is this power of the Spirit you hear about? Whatever you do, don’t stop walking. Don’t stop singing. Challenge yourself this day to take one more step in faith and take it without any fear, trusting God all the way. For God does go with you each hour of every day.

Day 7—Hanging the Greens

A Little White Church Advent

Come on an Advent journey and walk the rural roads and snow covered paths with Donna Frischknecht as she shares stories of God’s promises being fulfilled in the most amazing ways. These stories of “Emmanuel”—God with us—were gathered during her time serving as minister in a historic white clapboard church in upstate New York, right on the border of Vermont, from 2007-2013.

December 7

I was told to prepare to be wowed. I was told it was going to be like nothing I have ever seen. I was told it was one of the many things that made the little white church I was serving as pastor special.

Early in Advent the church had a tradition of hanging all the Christmas greenery as part of its worship service. Now I was a bit perplexed when I heard it was part of the actual service. How? When? Where? What? So many questions because I’ve never heard of such a thing before nor have I seen a church get “greened” right before my very eyes.

When I was a child the ivy and holly and poinsettias and Christmas tree always seemed to miraculously appear from one Sunday to the next. In my childlike awe, I just presumed it was Santa’s little elves at work making the church pretty for the season.

Those elves of my childhood seemed to be at work as well at the Fifth Avenue church I worshipped during my time living and working as an editor and reporter in Manhattan. One Sunday the doors were bare and the next, poof! Wreaths appeared from nowhere and greeted you with festive cheer.

Later on when I heeded God’s call to serve in the church, I realized the greening of a church did not involve the magic of Santa’s elves. Rather the decorating was more an adventure of getting volunteers to spare just a few minutes either on an weekday evening or a Sunday after worship to help get the church ready for Christmas. This feeble call for decorators was often helped by the promise of pizza afterwards. Food has a way of bringing out the volunteers.

“No, pastor, we really do decorate the entire church during the first hymn,” was the reply I got back from members of the worship committee when I asked for what might have been the twentieth time as to how this was all going to happen?

I guess my lack of comprehension was amusing for eventually the members of the little white church decided not explain to me anymore about how it would be done. Instead, they gave a knowing smile to one another and then a reassuring smile to me, their pastor, and said, “Don’t worry about a thing. Just wait and see.”

The Sunday came and the hymn to hang the greens by began to play. The tune was the familiar “Angels We Have Heard on High” but the words were completely foreign to me. The words, written many years ago by a member of the church, sang of the meaning behind the greens, talking of God’s love as everlasting—and as evergreen—as the swags being strung from the balconies that wrapped all around the early Colonial sanctuary.

The new verses to the familiar tune continued to be sung. I eventually stopped trying to sing for I just wanted to take in all the magic going on right before my very eyes.

On one side of the balcony there stood the testimony of time as father, son and now grandson stood together to be part of this beloved Christmas tradition. I stared at the three generations working together and realized there before me was a powerful illustration of what handing down the faith was all about—sharing the traditions, the stories and working to glorify God together, side by side. I looked at men and women who all of sudden stood up from their pew with evergreen in their hands ready to wrap the ancient pillars of the church. Even more people came up to where I was standing on the chancel and from behind the ornate wooden pulpit chairs, large wreaths appeared and were hung on either side of the chancel.

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My husband, PJ, helps hang the greens from the balcony in the little white church the first Christmas we were married.

By the time the last verse was sung—or the first verse repeated if more time was needed to finish the greening—there was not a dry eye or the lack of a beaming smile coming from all in the sanctuary. Everyone looked at one another and at the beauty that surrounded them. Joy filled the air.

There before us, in the greening of the church, was the great Christmas message of how God breaks into our hearts with hope. There before us was the reminder that if God can transform a barren sanctuary into something glorious in just the singing of a song, imagine what God wants to do in our own lives? For one second we might be crying, we might be complaining, we might be walking in what seems to be a never-ending road of darkness, but then in a blink of an eye the promise of God’s everlasting love can—and will—appear. And here was the most important reminder seen in the hanging of the greens that took place as part of the worship service. God often breaks into our lives through the hearts and hands of others. God uses his beloved community to bring about miracles as small as making a little white church ready for Christmas to as big as making those in the world ready for Christ.

I was told to prepare to be wowed. I was told it was going to be like nothing I have ever seen. I was told it was one of the many things that made the little white church I was serving as pastor special. And everything I was told exceeded this pastor’s expectations.

Thanks be to God.