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St. Mary’s church in Hague, N.D. (Katie Pinke/Agweek)

The beauty of a church is found in the people

There are two types of skyscrapers I enjoy seeing cut across the prairie skyline: grain elevators and churches. I often stop at rural churches to look around, not to be nosey but to pause and appreciate their humble beginnings, architecture and upkeep (or the lack thereof).

When I visit churches I always find a quiet place to sit, reflect and think about the people who gave as much as they could and then more to make the church what was, what it is and what it will be.

Then, I pray.

The churches are usually empty when I stop — and you know, they aren't as beautiful without the people who fill their pews and sanctuaries with praise and music. It's not a building that makes a church — it's the people from all walks of life.

I've been a churchgoer my entire life. I'm now a minority of my generation, but I keep going back because of the people — and the fellowship.

You can visit the most exquisitely built church building but without the people, it's empty. A church's beauty can be found in its walls and in its music but it's true beauty is around a table at a potluck, in a quiet weekly Bible study, at choir practice or in a Sunday school classroom.

Many churches are holding their annual "Rally Sunday" this month — a tradition to kick off a new Sunday school year after summer break or to start new curriculum. There might be games in the park and a potluck to celebrate. Our rural church does a "blessing of the backpacks" where every child brings their backpack to the front of the church.

As my kids have gotten older, I enjoy stopping with them at rural churches to explore. We also enjoy attending other churches to experience different types of Christian worship and connect with other families.

Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Strasburg, N.D.

Most recently we've stopped in Hague, N.D., at St. Mary's Catholic Church and in Strasburg, N.D., at Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church. I snapped a lot of pictures, not only to capture the architectural detail but to think of the people who built, serve and maintain the church and continue to fill the church because of their faith and commitment.

Inside St. Mary's church is a history book that shares about a fire in 1929 and how the church was rebuilt in the 1930s. In the greatest economic depression recorded, beautiful, faithful, hardworking rural people, mostly farmers I would guess, built a gem of a church on the prairie. Today, it still stands tall hovering near the North and South Dakota border.

St. Mary's church, Hague, N.D.

When visiting St. Mary's, I was thrilled to see the building was getting a new roof. The 75 families who attend St. Mary's raised $210,000 in a year to cover the majority of the roofing project.

Churches of all kinds are hoping you will walk through their doors this fall. Large or small, old or new — find one for you and your family. If the first one doesn't work out, try again. I pray for and dream of a rural revival, which includes growth in the churches of our communities. Share your talents, time and gifts to add new beauty to a congregation and a church.

If you have a beautiful church you'd like to share, drop me a note about it at kpinke@agweek.com. I'd love to visit and photograph more prairie skyscrapers on my road trips.

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