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Pine trees provide chapel experience at special times of year

 


Pine trees provide chapel experience at special times of year

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo courtesy of Chapel in the Pines

Worshippers at Chapel in the Pines sit in wooden pews in a grove of pine trees.

Nov. 18, 2004   

A UMNS Feature
By Linda Green*

Each Sunday through Labor Day, a multitude of boats deliver worshippers to the Chapel in the Pines, an outreach boatdock ministry of an Alabama United Methodist congregation.

At Christmas, the chapel provides a Holy Communion experience outdoors.

Chapel in the Pines is a ministry of Pell City First United Methodist Church, but the services are nondenominational. They are held on Logan Martin Lake from May 2 through the last week in September, with additional Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve services. The worshippers “come as they are” by boat or automobile.

The 40-year-old ministry provides a “wonderful opportunity for people to worship God in the midst of God’s creation,” says the Rev. Sherri Reynolds, associate pastor at First Church and supervisor of the chapel. The name comes from the fact that wooden pews have been placed in a grove of pine trees. 

The pews are made of weathered, treated lumber, and each worshipper has a square of carpet to sit on to keep clothes clean. Many people attend wearing shorts, T-shirts and sneakers.

In addition to the chapel, First Church provides “Lessons on the Lake,” a Sunday school class that junior and senior high school youth attend while cruising around Logan Martin in pontoon boats. The program began the first Sunday in August and continues as long as the weather and lake level permit.

The chapel is most active during the summer months, when crowds swell to nearly 300.  Nearly 100 are expected for the upcoming Christmas Eve Communion Service in the Pines.
 
Pastors from a variety of traditions take turns leading the worship services, Reynolds says. “We have pastors from Methodist, Baptist, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian and Episcopal churches. I think we have every church in Pell City represented.”

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo courtesy of Chapel in the Pines

A multitude of boats deliver worshippers to the Chapel in the Pines.

Those attending the worship services hail from diverse religious backgrounds, and some attend who may have grown up in a church but have not identified with a congregation in years.

When the boating and chapel season ends, a third of the parishioners go to First United Methodist Church in Pell City, a third go to other churches in the area, and about a third refer to the chapel as their home congregation, Reynolds says.

“The Chapel in the Pines is our summer outreach program, but there are people who will tell you that this is their church. ... They see the chapel as their year-round church and the community of faith they connect to, and they are the body of Christ to one another and only attend church during the summer months and at Christmas Eve Communion and Easter Sunrise Service,” she says. 

The chapel’s Christmas Eve Communion Service is designed to minister to people who come to town to visit their families and want to worship. The lake level has been lowered for the winter, so people will not attend this service by boat.

As at other chapel services, an offering will be collected. Church offerings are donated to charities in the Pell City area. “Most of the money collected goes back to the community, and about 90 percent goes to missions,” Reynolds says.

“We keep out enough to pay a small electric bill, a small honorarium to the pastors that speak and to money to keep the grass cut,” she adds. “Most Sundays, we give away $750 to a different charity. We give to 10 to 12 charities throughout the year.”

The Chapel in the Pines is a “wonderful outreach for First United Methodist Church,” she says. “United Methodist churches should be willing to do ministry to make disciples of Christ by going where the people are. We cannot expect them to come to the sanctuary.”

*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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