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Something from Nothing

“As Nobel laureate physicist Frank Wilczek has put it, ‘Why is there something rather than nothing? would then be that “nothing” is unstable.’ … In short, the natural state of affairs is something rather than nothing. An empty universe requires supernatural intervention–not a full one. Only by the constant action of an agent outside the universe, such as God, could a state of nothingness be maintained. The fact that we have something is just what we would expect if there is no God.” — from Victor Stenger, God: The Failed Hypothesis (2007)

unknown-church

“A few figs from thistles…”

by Howard A. Tabor

Building something from nothing with nothing for all

Spending time at the lake is a reprieve from many things: job, school, and chores, not to mention setting a limit on social obligations. But somewhere near the top of every list you are likely to find church attendance. Those thirty-five miles back to town are an easy excuse to avoid the drive. After all, even God rested on the seventh day.

Once or twice ad hoc spiritual gatherings at cabins or the Station-Store disrupted the peace of a Sunday morn. But they, too, failed for lack of numbers or an available cleric. We might have known this splendid isolation couldn’t last: the pastors could do nothing as individuals but their Ministerial Association could marshall collective resources to fill that happy void. Why not build a non-denominational chapel near the Station Store that no one within sound of its bell could avoid. Ministers would take turns conducting a service sufficiently generic to satisfy all [and offend none]. That’s a story for another time.

So they leased a patch of ground at the end of the interurban spur and made plans for a chapel to seat about fifty. But even the cheapest construction and volunteer labor put it beyond their means. Architect Anson Tennant [my great-uncle, I should confess] proposed a novel solution: locate an unused farm building or shack, move it to the site and make alterations suitable for Godly service.

Octogenarian Elias Fahnstock offered a decrepit shed that had sheltered chickens, mostly. But it was on the opposite side of Sturm and the road either way around the lake was either peppered with pot holes or too steep. Tennant proposed an ingenious solution: wait a few months and slide the coop across the frozen lake in the dead if winter. One mid-January day was chosen for Fahnstock’s draft horses to pull the coop on sleds to the opposite shore. Following Tennant’s drawings, construction began in the Spring of 1913. Dedication of “Lakeside Chapel”on June 1st combined the choirs from Saint Ahab, Saint Joe, and First Baptist for more ecumenism than we’ve seen before or since.

As a visual setting for Divine Service, the chapel was more than adequate. But its previous tenants had left an aroma that defied exorcism. It took little time for someone to identify Saint Ferreolus, Patron Saint of Sick Poultry, which became its popular epithet.

Services at the Chicken Chapel (another unfortunate moniker) continued into the war years; then it was called to an even higher service — a chicken coop for the war effort — and came full circle. In its thirty years, St Ferreolus had been something made from nothing with nothing for all.

Can I have an Amen.


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