This spring Ellsworth (Mich.) Christian Reformed Church took over official ownership and continued care for the Wayside Chapel on Highway 31 leading to Charlevoix, Mich. The move was partially an act of caregiving toward members of the former Atwood CRC in Ellsworth after that congregation closed and its members joined the Ellsworth congregation.
“The Wayside Chapel was started in the 1960s by members of Atwood CRC, and it serves as a stopping point on 31, going north, for those who liked the idea of a quaint little chapel where they could stop in and pray,” said Rev. Alex Snider, pastor of Ellsworth CRC. As Atwood CRC went through the process of closing and divesting its assets, “one of the things that they really wanted to [keep] in operation was the Wayside Chapel,” Snider said.
Just south of Atwood, the chapel measures 12 x 8 feet (3.5 x 2.5 m). It is open and lit 24 hours a day. Volunteers will continue to maintain the building—mowing the lawn at the small property, keeping the weeds at bay, and stocking the chapel with literature.
“Any time a church closes, obviously that’s a difficult time for those members who are still around,” Snider said. “It’s a good practice for the neighboring churches to do what we can to kind of ease that transition. Many of their members have come to be a part of our congregation, and so our council has decided to do what we can to make them feel welcome and at home—and at the same time make it clear that their history and the history of that church is still alive.”
Both churches have served their community for more than 100 years, with Ellsworth CRC turning 115 this year. Snider said their focus is becoming a blended congregation and working ecumenically with the two other churches in the 380-person town of Ellsworth.
“What we have done over the past year or so is focused our outreach efforts together, Snider said. “With the smaller resources of a smaller church, we can do a lot more if we say let’s be friends.”