When Tom and I were in Death Valley, we went to church with the Christian Ministry in the National Parks. That was over eight years ago. This summer, Tom and I have been able to worship thanks to Christian Ministry in the National Parks.
Our first month here at Cumberland Gap we tried to find a place to worship. Because we work on Sunday mornings, we need a church that has an alternative worship time. We aren’t very picky, but we do try to stick to mainline Protestant denominations. Unfortunately we haven’t been able to find anyplace with an evening service. There are lots of churches, but they all meet on Sunday mornings.
When we heard that a Christian Ministry in the National Parks was going to start having services in the campground amphitheater, we were excited. The services are at 5 p.m. and we can get home from work, change clothes, and then just walk to the amphitheater. Every week we get a mainline Christian service with a variety of people attending.
The worship leader/ student pastor is a little different from most of the Christian Ministry in the National Park leaders. She was an attorney in Middlesboro for 30 years before retiring and beginning to attend seminary. In other words, she is my age. Most of the Christian Ministry in the National Park leaders are in their 20’s. Her name is Karen. She had to do an internship for seminary and when she heard about this ministry, she thought it was perfect. She can live at home and still put in her ministry hours.
Karen has been a good worship leader. She gets a lot of support from her local church, First Christian Church of Middlesboro. Every week 10 to 15 of her fellow church members attend the service at the campground. Karen recruits someone from the community to share special music every week and has people in the “congregation” help with readings from the Bible. Her messages are carefully considered and she always gives us something to think about. This last week was about learning to wait on the Lord. In her benediction she said “Wherever you are, God has put you there.” A great thing to think about this week.
Tom and I have gotten to know several of the other people who attend the service. Paul and Sherrie are from Tazewell, Tennessee and come to most of the special programs in the park. Sheree is a bagger at Kroger who is also 83. Pamela Burtner Blank is the sister of my wonderful friend Karen Burtner Graham and a librarian in Middlesboro. It is fun to get to know people and feel like you have a connection with the community.
Tom and I are grateful to have this resource available so conveniently. We love being able to worship with others on a regular basis. Doing it so close to home makes it even better.