LOON LAKE — The small country church on the outskirts of Loon Lake has been inspiring the community for over a century.
Loon Lake Chapel is only open for worship a couple months out of the year, but the devotion of the congregation is admirable.
On July 30 they had their annual Ice Cream Social that keeps the bills paid and the church alive. As it is every year the place was filled with church goers and community supporters.
Dawn Zigenfus said this is the main fundraiser for them. She has been going to Loon Lake Chapel for many years.
“We were worried last spring because the shingles were coming off on the roof,” she said. “We got it paid for and saved just in time.”
This is not the first time the community has had to rush to save their beloved church in the nick of time.
Many of whom are now buried in Loon Lake Cemetery just up the road from the church they called home.
In 1848 three brothers, James, Ira, and Elisha were all ministers and sons of the first recorded settler of Loon Lake, Solomon Brownson. The place of worship has been called many things over the decades such as, The First Church of God of Wayland and Loon Lake, The Methodist Episcopal Church of Loon Lake, and finally the Loon Lake Chapel.
In its heyday it was the place to go, and many would flock to it every Sunday morning. There were clergymen eager to be part of this historic church.
In 1913 it lost steam and the congregation got fewer and fewer, before disappearing entirely.
The quiet little church was lost within its own memories as echoes of the past could be heard in the walls. It was left to ruin for over 30 years before being discovered once again by a passerby.
This passerby would bring the church back to the community by sheer determination. Kenney Downey refused to give up and allow this beautiful country church to slip away for good. Downey got James Brownson’s great-great-grandson George Collins onboard to help restore it, and a pastor named Ellis Pierce to believe in its survival.
Pierce remained the leader of the church until his retirement 34 years later. It has changed hands since the late 1970s, but for the past three years Rev. Frank Williams has taken over.
Rev. Williams said he believes in a non-denominational church where anyone is welcome to come and hear God’s word. It is the spirit of this that makes the church such a treat for the entire community.
The home the three original ministers lived in is still standing next to the church. The cemetery down the road holds the faithful and fallen believers.
“What I love the most about this church is that everyone is welcome,” Zigenfus said. “No matter what denomination you are.”
Since there are many people from all over the country that stay at the lake all summer the church has seen people from many different states. The Ice Cream Social is a big event for them as well.
“We always have such a great turn out,” Zigenfus said. “Some come out just to socialize and others come to the church.”
This may be a small country church, but thanks to the faith of the community it has a big heart.