Annie Mehl
Annie Mehl

November 1, 2017


Editor’s note: This is part of a series of columns in which reporter Annie Mehl visits and explores various churches in and around Carroll.

When I first moved to Carroll, I cruised along the simple streets looking for some form of salvation. Maybe some nice restaurants, bars and local shopping?

All of that, of course, is here in Carroll. But I also found another form of salvation was offered in Carroll.

My name is Annie Mehl, and I am a newbie to the rural Midwest life. I moved to Carroll May 31, after completing degrees in journalism and French in December at the University of Colorado Boulder. I had never been to Iowa before or lived in the Midwest but looked forward to my new adventure as an education reporter at the Daily Times Herald.

I attended middle school and high school in Castle Rock, Colorado, a town of 60,000-plus people (a town I once saw as small) and become acclimated to the churchgoers bogging down the local restaurants and grocers on Sundays after their service. After moving away to Boulder, I forgot how prominent religion can be for many. Then I moved to Carroll.

My mom is Lutheran, and my dad is Jewish. So my childhood was a constant battle between whether my two brothers — Casey, 26, and Riley, 21 — and I would end up Lutheran or Jewish. Over the past 24 years, I have attended many Lutheran church services as well as temple. I have even been to Israel, where I celebrated Shabbat, the Jewish day of prayer, at the Western Wall (something I highly recommend, whether you’re Jewish or not).

So, you may already view me as very religiously confused person, as I was raised between two religions that have literally gone to war with each other. On the contrary, I have always loved theology.

In college, I spent time studying many religious denominations to further grasp what so many believe is worth killing for, starving themselves for and centering their entire lives around. I have sat cross-legged on the floors of Sikh temples, stared at random objects at a Scientology church and felt the love Muslims share for their belief through worship.

I view this column as continuance to that education. I am constantly questioning why something with a basis of so much love and acceptance has formed so much hate in the world. Thus, this is my first of many columns, through which I’ll recount my experiences visiting as many Carroll-area churches as possible. I hope that this column serves as a learning experience for not only me but for those reading it.

I started with Peace Lutheran Church in Glidden. When I walked into church service at Sunday morning at 9, I had no idea what to expect.

Worshipers gathered in the back as Pastor Alan J. Miller began his sermon by talking about two topics: fireworks and alcohol consumption.

Miller became the head pastor of Peace Lutheran in Glidden in 1994 and of Peace Lutheran in Coon Rapids in 1998. He is originally from Indiana and became involved in an organization called Ongoing Ambassadors for Christ while he was in high school. Through this, he said, he traveled around the Midwest participating in Evangelical outreach and found a strong desire to share the message of salvation with people.

Miller and his wife, Becky, have two daughters: Elizabeth, 22, and Allison, 26. Outside of church, he enjoys reading history- and biography-based books and riding his bike.

I have attended many Lutheran services but did not realize how ignorant I was. Miller spoke about “man’s law,” which was responsible for Prohibition and outlawing fireworks but can’t change the “hearts and minds” of people, which want what they can’t have, resulting in sin. This was nothing like the other Lutheran churches I had been to. I definitely understood where he was coming from but also felt as if I was being lectured for drinking multiple beers the night before.

Next, things got a little crazy. Miller used a fish as a metaphor to describe reading and understanding the Bible.

“Studying the Bible can be like eating a fish,” he said. “While reading the Bible, it may become confusing at times.”

This represented the bony, flavorless parts of the fish.

But people go on reading the Bible and find there are “tasty and meaty parts of the fish to eat from here forward,” Miller said.

When I was 13, I declared myself a vegetarian. Educating myself on health in general has been a huge passion of mine. But I grew up in the Bay Area of California and love sushi. At 19, I incorporated some fish back into my diet.

That has faded some since moving to Carroll, but I totally understood Miller’s metaphor. Fish is tasty, and like fish, the Bible is also rich and flavorful. Although, when he compared reading the Book of Romans to “choking on a bone,” it definitely turned me away from fish.

Over all, it was an informative morning for someone wanting to understand and learn more about the religious culture in Carroll County.