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Something from Nothing


“As Nobel laureate physicist Frank Wilczek has put it, ‘The answer to the ancient question, 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)


“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. “Sorry, we’d love to but we’re at the lake.” And somewhere near the top of every list you are likely to find church attendance. Those twenty-five miles back to town are an easy excuse to evade it. After all, even God rested on the seventh day.

One or two ad hoc spiritual gatherings at cabins or the Station-Store disrupted the otherwise unblemished quiet 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 combined forces — a Ministerial Association — could marshal larger resources to displace 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 alternate conducting services sufficiently generic to satisfy all [and offend none; good luck with that!], but therein lies 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 an over-optimistic fifty souls. But even the cheapest construction and volunteer labor put the project 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 his chickens. 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 and unpaved in the bargain. 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 sledges to the opposite shore. Then, following Tennant’s drawings (on the back of an envelope), construction began in the Spring of 1913. Dedication of “Lakeside Chapel” on June 1st combined the choirs from Saint Ahab, Saint Joe, Asbury Methodist and First Baptist for more ecumenism than we’ve seen before or since.

As a physical setting for Divine Service, the chapel was adequate — lacking a full-immersion tank for Baptists but there was the lake. Its previous tenants, however, had left an aroma that defied exorcism. It took little time for someone to identify Saint Ferreolus, Patron Saint of Sick Poultry, who became its popular dedication.

Services at the Chicken Chapel (another unfortunate moniker) continued into the war years, when it answered a higher patriotic calling — a chicken coop for the war effort itself — and came full circle. In its thirty years, St Ferreolus had been something made from nothing with nothing for everyone — and then some.

Can I hear an Amen?


  1. […] Episcopal, and Roman) served a union chapel converted from a chicken coop, which came to be called Saint Ferreolus. With its school-bell call to Sunday service the Edwardian palette of lake life was set through the […]

  2. […] by the success of the federated summer chapel at Sturm und Drang, several denominations agreed to serve a chapel at Grou on a rotating basis, if it could be built […]

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