Story by Cathy Shouse
Hoosiers are finding unique ways to let the spirit move them, literally. They’re sharing their faith in unconventional places, many times off the beaten paths.
Some may relate to the late social commentator Will Rogers on religion, who said he had mixed with so many people in all parts of the world, “I don’t know just what I am. I know I have never been a non-believer.”
Many of the faithful have been brought together over their specialized interests and hobbies. All agree the resulting worship experiences are gratifying and refreshingly outside
the norm. Many worship times are actually held in the great outdoors, to enjoy nature.
Whenever Donna Boatwright of Grant County is able, she and her family will visit the Sunday morning worship services at Brown County State Park. In 2005, Dean and April Manuel started the tradition at the Horseman’s Camp located inside the park. Most attendees are people staying at the campgrounds, but everyone is welcome.
“It is definitely an awesome experience,” Boatwright said. “April and Dean just really have a heart for ministry and for the people in the campground. It’s not uncommon to have 90 people. We’ve been taking our grandkids since they were little and they love it. Two of our grandsons are in their twenties now and still love to go. (The Manuels) will have two Belgian type horses pulling a wagon and they will come around the campground and pick people up. Some will ride to the service on their horses and even stay on horseback through the service. There is always music. The campers sometimes bring their instruments. They might bring a guitar or a trumpet, whatever they have. People have been baptized in the creek. It’s like our church away from home.”
Dean Manuel said he had never given a sermon until he started speaking around the fire at the Horseman’s Camp services (HCCO Park on Facebook).
“The Lord called me to it and I just followed his lead,” Manuel said. “Mostly, I was a worship leader. I just started this ministry, where it was outside.”
About 8:30 a.m. on Sunday morning, he and his horses take the wagon around to collect his congregation. At 9:30 a.m., his wife April serves breakfast, coffee and cocoa and by 10 a.m. Manuel begins the service, including a fifteen- to twenty-minute message. They meet from the first Sunday in April to the last Sunday in November, and always outside. The coldest day so far was 13 degrees and he “just turned the campfire up hotter.”
The horses will sometimes make their presence known, whether tied to the hitching post alone or with riders still in their saddles. “Sometimes, I’ll be preaching, and they’ll really start in whinnying,” Manuel said. “I tell people, That’s their amen.”
Manuel recently compiled stats for the 15 years since they started:
20,000+ biscuits/scones made by April; 3, 200 miles around the park with the wagon; 4 times rebuilding the wagon; 552 Sunday sermons; 16,000 people in the services; 63 baptisms.
To sample another special service, head to Lake Wawasee in Syracuse on a Sunday morning. Harlan Steffen, 86, still works part-time at Steffen Realty and he is one of the “initiators” of the popular Boat-in Worship.
“It’s outdoors in God’s great cathedral,” he said. “There’s nothing more natural than God’s world. “It’ll be worth your while to take a drive and go to the Boat-in Worship on Lake Wawasee, Indiana’s largest natural lake. You’ll understand why people will get up that early to worship. We’ve been doing this for fifty years and a lot of Sundays we’ll have over a thousand people.”
There’s free coffee and doughnuts. Call Steffan’s cell at 574-529-3627 for more information.
From Memorial Day to Labor Day, they meet Sundays from 8:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m.
Three ways to arrive: 1) come in on a private boat 2) stay at the Oakwood Resort and sit on the shore or 3) go to the Frog Tavern and come on the S. S. Lillypad, a 70-foot dinner houseboat.
“Come as you are” is truly celebrated at the “Drive-In” worship services in Monticello. Every Sunday, Memorial Day through Labor Day, the Monticello United Methodist Church hosts its services at the Lake Shore outdoor drive-in theatre. “Kids–and some adults– come in their pajamas since they stay in their cars to worship,” says pastor Brian Beeks. The church brings in a wagon with a pulpit, and connects with the theatre’s sound system. “It’s certainly different than our downtown services,” Beeks says. “We preach to car windshields, and people respond by honking their horns.”
The services have been going on since the late 1970s, and some members of the congregation have been coming since they first started back in 1977. Doughnuts are served the third Sunday of the month, and communion is done once a month. There are typically around 100 people who attend each week. For more information, call the church at 574- 583-5545.
Historically, religious expression and worship have been a strong part of the “Chautauqua” experience.
In Remington, halfway between Indianapolis and Chicago, Fountain Park Chautauqua has continued to promote the concepts and values of the early Chautauqua movement. There are nondenominational Sunday worship services, along with daily afternoon and evening programs or speakers providing cultural education and family entertainment. Also offered are daily art classes including oil painting, watercolor painting, quilting, and an abundance of kids activities. Fountain Park was the dream of Robert Parker, president of the Bank of Remington, Indiana.
In 1893 he purchased the land and began making plans. By the first session a tabernacle and restaurant were built, and in 1898 a summer hotel was constructed and is still in use today. By 1905 the number of cottages totaled forty. Now there are seventy-three. There are also campsites, a 600-seat tabernacle complete with dressing rooms, double art buildings for adult and youth art classes, museum, recreational hall, shelter, food stand, gazebo, playground equipment and basketball court. www.fountain-park.org
Other sites offer more individualized experience and some have spiritual architecture to be visited. The Saint Meinrad Archabbey, the monastery Immaculate Conception, which is known for its 87-foot dome, and the roofless church in New Harmony are all in this category.
Mary Jeanne Schumacher is director of communications for Saint Meinrad Archabbey www. saintmeinrad.org/, a 250-acre property that is a Benedictine men’s monastery with a guest house, a retreat center, and more. Visitors can stop at the guest house for information on a walking tour, including an audio recording.
“There are plenty of places on the grounds if you want to spend a few moments in prayer on your own,” Schumacher said. “You can join us in prayer, take a walk, stay for a couple of days by yourself, or join one of our three-night group retreats.”
In Kewanna, the Mahseh Center on Lake Bruce is “a place to seek God for renewal” and they schedule retreats. There are also other retreat places around the state. www.mahseh.org/
The Valparaiso University Chapel of the Resurrection in Valparaiso is the largest university chapel in the United States, seats about 2,000 people, and its chancel is 98 feet high. It was inspired by the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and the chairs were specially made in England. Visitors are welcome and there is no dress code. The Sunday morning service is similar to the Roman Catholic tradition.
There’s no doubt about it. However the spirit moves you, there’s likely a place in the state where you can experience it.
The Shrine of Christ’s Passion
The small town of St. John, nestled in the far northwest corner of Indiana, might seem like a surprising tourist destination, but it has quickly become well known by people of all faiths from all over the world. It has attracted visitors from all 50 states and more than 40 different countries.
At The Shrine of Christ’s Passion:
- you can sit at the Last Supper table;
- pray with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane;
- walk alongside him on the path to Mt. Calvary;
- and rejoice with the apostles, as you enter & experience the empty tomb.
The Shrine is an interactive, multimedia, “Prayer Trail” that depicts the last days of Jesus Christ’s life on earth. 40 life size bronze sculptures, each an exquisite work of art, line the winding half mile path. The journey is complete with hauntingly, beautiful original music, that helps to reflect the story of Jesus’ Passion, death and Resurrection. As you walk along, the music transitions 17 times, depending on the mood of each scene.
Guests’ experience, as never before, Christ’s final days on earth, beginning with the Last Supper, where you can sit with Jesus at the Last Supper table just as his apostles did. At each location, with the simple press of a button, a guest can hear a description of the scene and a short reflection. The setting is meditative and people following the Prayer Trail often find themselves in deep contemplation, some with tears in their eyes.
Landscaping throughout the breathtaking journey includes more than 1,000 trees, bushes, shrubs, flowers and grasses. Everything was chosen to make the visitor feel that they are right there in the Holy Land.
Bill Kurtis, former news anchor of Channel 2, narrates each scene. In 2016, the Shrine welcomed Moses at Mt. Sinai. Imagine seeing Moses, coming down Mt. Sinai, carrying God’s Law – the Ten Commandments in his arms. As you wander along the path, you can hear the wind whipping around the mountain; it feels as if you are in a true mountain range in the middle of the desert! This project alone took three years to build; thousands of loads of clay and more than 140 truckloads of boulders from a Wisconsin quarry were used to create an impressive mountain.
There is no charge to experience The Shrine of Christ’s Passion. It is absolutely FREE, but it’s a Priceless Experience. Donations and the proceeds from The Gift Shoppe sustain and support the upkeep and maintenance of The Shrine. The Gift Shoppe is over 12,000 square feet and stocks thousands of beautiful items. In fact, The Gift Shoppe has become a shopping destination for people throughout the Midwest! It’s truly a must see!
“COME TAKE THE JOURNEY!”
For information, please call (855)277-7474 or visit www.shrineofchristspassion.org.