This post is also posted at abelhouse.church.
Every time I take a road trip, I go with the desire to learn more about people, cultures, and history. I do intend to rest, eat good food, and get away from it all—whatever “it” is. But most of all, I enjoy chancing on God’s sense of humor, His design, His overlay of beauty on every natural setting, and His music. I know I won’t have to search for them because He will place them on my way at almost every turn.
And “turn” is how I love to travel. I find an anchoring spot, and then each day my husband, Don, plots a “turning” to take us all around and through a large area. Mostly we drive for miles on a journey for the senses: seeing and hearing and smelling and tasting and feeling the world around us.
On every turning of our recent trip through New England countryside that neither of us had explored before, we found friendly, interested, and interesting people; forests, rivers, lakes, and streams; thousands of Monopoly-piece-styled farm houses far larger than any rural homes we had seen before with acres and acres of land separating neighbors by miles, not just fields or blocks; courteous drivers who drove cars as relatively separated by distance as were their homes; and kayaks, canoes, and boats for sailing, skiing, paddling, motoring, or storing in specially-built garages with boat doors taller than vehicle doors.
And on every turning, we found churches. Some were built of native stone; more were built from the lumber of thick hardwood forests that surround the towns and town squares all over Maine. We saw only a small handful of Baptist churches, the denomination that dominates the South in which I grew up. They were easily recognized, though, for they were generally white, steepled, plain, and watched over by those in the cemetery adjoining. We found rural and urban Methodist churches, beautiful stone Catholic cathedrals, and a Unitarian church. We saw not one mosque or temple or synagogue. Most prevalent, on town squares, urban corners, and rural acres, were Congregational churches. I could see the state’s religious history in the holy sanctuaries of every community.
In Boothbay Harbor, Maine, on Shore Road, at the point where the land touches the sea, we stumbled on the Janet M. Wilson Memorial Chapel. Almost surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and yellow coreopsis blooms, it is housed in a tiny, beautiful, stone building designed by Edwin J. Lewis, Jr., and built in 1917 by Lewis Wilson in memory of his late wife. Today, it is nondenominational and serves summer visitors on Sundays with visiting pastors who must find their time there to be a time of spiritual renewal in the presence of God’s gifts.
Perhaps, however, its greatest role is as a wedding chapel for those who yearn for a love so great that it will endure even after death, as it did for the bride whose husband built it. We met a glowing young lady visiting with her mother as they exited the chapel, a return for them a year after her wedding. She “sang” her story to strangers from Florida. On the Internet, I later found page after page of wedding photographs posted by other smiling brides who had shared a happy, love-filled day there with grooms and families.
As we drove away from Boothbay Harbor, I thought how blessed we had been to have the opportunity to love and honor God in a place designed and built to love and honor a woman who had loved and honored God during her lifetime.
On a turning a few days later, driving on Lakewood Road in Madison, Maine, we came across yet another chapel, the Daystar Chapel. The sign in front of it proclaimed it to be The Church with the Outdoor Enthusiast in Mind: Home of “MAINE-LY OUTDOORS MINISTRY.” The Christian cross displayed in the upper right corner was repeated as the “T” in “OUTDOORS.” Then, in bold, black, strong capital letters, the sign explained exactly what an “Outdoor Enthusiast” has in mind: WE BELIEVE IN OPEN & / CONCEALED CARRY / OUR BIBLE & GUN.
The sign further informed any still-interested passersby that the church is a “Member of IPHC” (International Pentecostal Holiness Church) with two Sunday services and Thursday prayer and Bible study meeting.
As I did with the Janet M. Wilson Memorial Chapel, I further investigated the Daystar Chapel through its website. According to it, Pastor Dell Wing and the church have set as their mission “[t]o advance the Kingdom of God by reaching and teaching all who will receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Equipping, empowering and enabling Christians to impact our community and beyond for Christ.” They list the major church event for July as the Hunter Safety Course on July 20, 22, and 25. The course fulfilled requirements for a Maine hunting license if the full 16.5 hours were attended. Additionally, they note that the Maine-Ly Outdoors Ministry hosts handgun as well as “various” safety courses required by Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife all through the year.
I admit that I am left puzzled and full of questions regarding the church’s Biblical stand for guns even after studying the sign and researching the Daystar Chapel website.
Just how is it that guns in church “advance the Kingdom of God by reaching and teaching all who will receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ”? While I can grasp that teaching people to handle guns safely will equip and empower them, doesn’t that increase the possibility that the “impact” on the community will not be Christ-like? What Christ-like “impact” could guns have on any community? Where is the Bible passage that exhorts Christians to arm themselves with guns? For what do chapel-goers pray on Thursday nights? Good aim that they may “impact” visitors in the heart? That bullets may take out evil?
What does it mean to “believe” in carrying anything? (Perhaps their use of the word “believe” has to do with its meaning to fancy something, i.e., I fancy carrying a gun.) Why is that strongly stated belief in carrying not the fifteenth belief listed on the website?
And of what are they afraid? Have Pentecostal Christians been threatened by people from other houses of worship in the area? Are they worried about hordes of illegal Canadian immigrants crashing through the doors? Are they being attacked by wild animals? (As far as I know, Maine does not have a large population of lions.) Have church-goers there been physically attacked by the police? By revenuers? By the government?
As we drove away from Madison, we watched carefully straight ahead, neither of us wanting to tarry as we left a site and surroundings that appeared to be ashamed. We heard no laughter or song. We saw no blooming flowers, heard no water lapping nearby. Everything felt unloved. I thought then that we had dodged a bullet, and I thanked God.
Mostly now I chuckle when I ponder the trip experiences and wonder what we chanced on when we discovered the two chapels. Are they examples of God’s sense of humor, His design, His overlay of beauty on every natural setting, or His music? I see all four characteristics in the Janet M. Wilson Memorial Chapel, but I confess that I do not in the Daystar Chapel. So of whose creation is it an example?