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Dec. 9, 2018
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Getting close to God and nature with lake church services

By Pamela A. Keene
 
Did you know that on any Sunday you can attend a Christian church service on Lake Lanier? While some lake services only take place on Sundays from May through Labor Day, Gainesville Marina’s Pavilion is home to year-round services every Sunday.
 
“If it’s cold or rainy we can enclose the pavilion,” said John Simpson, who often preaches at the services. His home church, Lanier Christian Church, is pastored by his father David Simpson. “We’re there every Sunday for our 10 a.m. lake service, whether there are just a few people or 400, like we traditionally have at our Easter Sunrise Service. Typically, we have between 50 and 60 people in the warmer months.”
 
Lanier Christian Church manages the lake services that are open to all denominations. “Visitors are always welcome and especially in the summer people from outside of the area attend. We’ve had people come from all over, including Atlanta, who are looking for a church service while they’re spending the weekend at the lake. Instead of going home on Saturday nights or early Sunday morning to attend their home church, they celebrate and worship with us.” 
 
People can come by car or boat. Dress is casual. “Wear your shorts, T-shirts and flip-flops,” Simpson said. “Everyone is welcome. We always have coffee, and in the summer we also have lemonade.” Pastor David Simpson preaches many of the Sunday lake services. Pastoral needs of those who attend the lake service, whether members of Lanier Christian Church or not, are served by Simpson.

The church offers two services at its main location, 22356 Dawsonville Highway, Gainesville. It’s just down the road from Gainesville Marina. Bible studies, children, youth and teen programs, as well as community outreach, are coordinated through the church.  “We hope people will join us on Sundays when they’re at the lake,” Simpson said. “And if they’d like to join our church, they will certainly be welcomed.” 
 
For more information about Lanier Christian Church at Gainesville Marina, visit www.lanierchristianchurch.com or call 770 534-1422.
 
On the south side of the lake, Holiday Chapel at Holiday Marina has been hosting church services every summer Sunday since 1965. “We’re an interdenominational chapel where everyone is welcome,” said Diane Fox, who with her husband Dennis and four other couples volunteer to manage the logistics of the weekly summer morning services. “Member of our group, Friends of Holiday Lanier Chapel, has been volunteering for more than five decades to provide church services for people at the lake.” 
 
The ministry began as an outgrowth of First United Methodist Church of Buford. Details of those early days are part of “Historic Buford,” authored by Handsel Grady Morgan.  “People would gather at the top of the hill at Holiday Marina back then, before the pavilion was built, and they’re still coming to services on Sundays from the first Sunday in May through the Sunday of Labor Day Weekend,” she said. “The men of Buford First United Methodist built the pavilion and it has been a win-win so that people away from their home churches or who want to can attend.”
 
The dress is casual. Services are led by invited ministers or lay people. Traditional hymns ring through the hardwoods that surround the chapel. Because of when the chapel was built, it is not ADA accessible. “We always have coffee, juice and donuts or fruit before the service,” she said. “And on the Sunday before Labor Day, we always host a pot-luck and people bring food to share. It’s a warm and welcoming fellowship.”
 
Pastoral needs are served by First United Methodist Church in Buford.  Fox said that the chapel is involved in the community and has annually provided a scholarship for a ministerial student every year since 1965. The group also supports several charities in Buford and Gainesville when they have extra funds. 
 
While preachers and some musicians are paid, everyone else is a volunteer. The group is independently funded and relies on plate offerings to pay for operational costs. “But we do accept donations, like the keyboard that someone from the docks at Holiday gave us several years ago.” She said the group is looking for a sound system to allow them to play recorded music. And they’re always looking for more volunteers.  “All Christian denominations are welcome,” she said. “This is such a beautiful and holy place, and you can really feel God’s presence here.” 
 
Services are held every week from the first Sunday in May through Labor Day Sunday at 9 a.m. For more information, contact Diane and Dennis Fox via email at dfox1@bellsouth.net or visit the Facebook page by searching for Holiday Lanier Chapel. 
 
For people who live in Cumming, Sunday services at Bald Ridge Marina Chapel take place  from the first Sunday in May until Labor Day Sunday, starting at 9 a.m. “People come by boat or car, and we have an average of 250 people each Sunday, depending, of course, on the weather,” said Charles Meagher, who serves on the Bald Ridge Chapel board of trustees. “Our services are open to all. Our services are no-frill; come casual.” 
 
The chapel has a long-standing relationship with Cumming First United Methodist Church, but it has operated independently as a non-denominational service at the marina since 1964. Church members built the chapel on land provided by Bald Ridge Marina as a community outreach. 
 
In fact, Meagher said that he became familiar with Cumming First United Methodist Church through his attendance at Bald Ridge Chapel in the mid 1980s. “I became a member of Cumming First United Methodist Church in 2000 and became part of the board after that.” The board of trustees includes members from several area churches.
 
Meagher credits Bald Ridge Marina for the lake service’s ongoing success. “We could not do what we do and offer the service and ministries without the support of the management at Bald Ridge Marina,” Meagher said. “It is an important outreach ministry.”
 
For information about services at Bald Ridge Chapel, visit www.baldridgechapel.com or call 678 232-9032. 
 
Do you know of other lake church services at Lake Lanier? We want to hear about them to include in our upcoming summer listing of church services. Please email us at lakesidenews@mindspring.com

Posted online 3/30/18
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