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Wedding Vows

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

To understand how sad this story is, you have to know that Swedish Lutheran congregations are usually suspicious of young pastors with fancy ideas. Lutherans like to start pastors out in small isolated congregations so that if anything goes wrong, it won't spread.

But there are mistakes, as in this story of a Swedish Lutheran church over in Moline, who, in a momentary lapse, called a pastor right out of the seminary. He had one of those new ideas: wouldn't it be a wonderful congregation builder if couples who had been married from five to sixty-five years held a grand ceremony and renewed their wedding vows, with a reception following in the church basement.

It seemed harmless. Eleven couples signed up, though Ed and Alice Garpdahl withdrew a week later when they became worried that the ceremony might somehow make them bigamists. The remaining ten got their wedding dresses down from the attic and began letting them out.

Rolf and Ada Bureson, married for fifty-one years, were the first to crack under the stress. It turned out Ada had never forgiven Rolf for taking her to Duluth rather than Florida on their honeymoon. Rolf was still angry at Ada for spending the money from Uncle Louis to complete her silverware set. The Buresons withdrew from the ceremony and Rolf moved to a different nursing home.

Problems continued. The Andersons got into the swing of things at first and decided to play honeymoon bridge to work up to the event, but Orlen stopped talking to Ruth after she got twelve hundred points ahead. They withdrew a week or so later. In the end, three couples made it to the altar, although one of them was not speaking to each other.

The congregation itself might have survived the renewal of vows had it not been for the fight over the wedding reception. For ninety-four years, the ladies aid had served tuna salad made with ring macaroni at wedding receptions. When the pastor's wife—a young thing with new ideas of her own—got on the food committee and changed the menu to lasagna, it split the congregation. A temporary truce was arranged by encouraging the macaroni people to attend the 8:30 service and the lasagna people the 10:45 service. But it had split so many families down the middle that the future looks bleak.

Rock Island Lines with Roald Tweet is underwritten by the Scott County Regional Authority, with additional funding from the Illinois Arts Council and Augustana College, Rock Island.

Beginning 1995, historian and folklorist Dr. Roald Tweet spun his stories of the Mississippi Valley to a devoted audience on WVIK. Dr. Tweet published three books as well as numerous literary articles and recorded segments of "Rock Island Lines." His inspiration was that "kidney-shaped limestone island plunked down in the middle of the Mississippi River," a logical site for a storyteller like Dr. Tweet.