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Ever hear of a place called Brooky Bottom?
When we asked you to tell us about hidden gems scattered across the Midlands, Robert Fritschen of Laurel, Neb., said he knew just the place in Cedar County.
“That area up there is extremely picturesque,” he said.
He gave special mention to Sunday church services held in Brooky Bottom Park. It's on Nebraska's border with South Dakota along the Missouri River across from Goat Island.
Brooky Bottom Park, also called Brooky Bottom Recreation Area, has a boat dock, camping area, picnic spots and an open-sided shelter with a roof.
It also has a settlement of mostly summer homes.
Darla Rock of Pierson, Iowa, leads the 10 a.m. monthly summer religious services in Brooky Bottom's shelter.
Remaining services on this year's May-through-September schedule are June 23, July 7, Aug. 4 and Sept. 1.
Fifteen people attended Rock's first ecumenical Christian service in Brooky Bottom about five years ago. Now she preaches there to 80 to 100 worshippers, 20 of whom are children.
Rock, a certified lay servant in the United Methodist Church, said most people who attend don't even know she's a Methodist.
She got hymnals for Brooky Bottom from the United Church of Christ in Kingsley, Iowa, when it acquired new ones. Rock also leads services once a month at the Kingsley church.
She bought the altar cross at a rummage sale at Salem Lutheran Church in Correctionville, Iowa, near her home. She and husband Jim also have a summer home at Brooky Bottom, where she stores the hymnals and cross between services.
Services by the river at Brooky Bottom are informal.
No one dresses up. Guests, who often arrive with a coffee mug in hand, get there on foot or by golf cart, four-wheeler or boat. Leashed dogs attend, too. The congregation doesn't take up a collection.
If it's lightly raining, congregants move closer together, away from the shelter's open sides. Rock quickly ends the service if there's a downpour.
She's even had baptisms at the services — two babies she sprinkled with water and an adult she immersed in the Missouri River. She plans another baby baptism this summer.
Rock's services last 30 to 45 minutes. Sometimes, someone plays an electric keyboard.
After the service, congregants stay for coffee, snacks and visiting. Regulars take turns bringing the refreshments.
Rock discourages using a GPS device to find Brooky Bottom.
“You'll get lost and never find it,” she said.
Both she and Fritschen recommend driving there on Nebraska Highway 12, a scenic byway. Watch for the turn-off sign for Brooky Bottom, and take the gravel road to the park.
Fritschen suggests that if you travel to Cedar County, you also take in Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in St. Helena, St. Boniface Catholic Church in Menominee, Sts. Philip and James Parochial School (now a farmers market) in St. James and Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Bow Valley. These buildings are all on the National Register of Historic Places.
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