“Thanks to the Interstate Highway System, it is now possible to travel
across the country from coast to coast without seeing anything.
From the Interstate, America is all steel guardrails and plastic signs,
and every place looks and feels and sounds and smells like every other place.”
— Charles Kuralt
Modern interstate highways are the perfect solution, if you only want to get from one large city to another in a hurry. We all use them, and they’re a blessing. But a fast interstate road trip also offers mile after boring mile of sameness. The same fast food restaurants, gas stations, and motels appear at every exit. What you don’t see on interstates are sights like … “The Smallest Church in America.”
Recently, we had what we call an “outing,” which means that we let the car just wander around. Savannah, Georgia was our intended destination, but we weren’t overly concerned if we actually made it there or not. Instead of Interstate 95 (the fastest route), we chose to take US Highway 17, also known as the Coastal Highway. Since 1926 this scenic, two-lane road has been taking drivers from Winchester, Virginia to Punta Gorda, Florida.
And since 1949, travelers on this route have been passing Christ’s Chapel in Memory Park, aka “The Smallest Church in America.” The church is located in McIntosh County about 40 miles south of Savannah, and a large, white sign (almost as big as the church), makes it impossible to miss.
Nestled in a grove of spanish moss-draped oaks and pines, the chapel was an intriguing sight. At 10 x 15 feet, the building definitely fits in the tiny category, and a small bell tower in front completed the churchly picture.
Our initial thought was, “What a cute little building.” Then we tried the door, which opened into a very small sanctuary, complete with cozy seating for 12, a small pulpit in front, and stained glass windows on all sides. This wasn’t just a small building masquerading as a church, it really was a tiny church.
The churchyard was decorated with small, colorful statuary (complete with solar-powered lights), and the building and grounds were meticulously maintained. The level of care indicates that someone is seriously devoted to this church.
In fact, when local grocer Agnes Harper built the church, it was deeded to Jesus Christ. I bet that raised some eyebrows at the courthouse.
After a bit of internet research, we discovered that there are quite a few “smallest churches” scattered all over America. Which one is actually the smallest is of little concern to us. Because on this day, Christ’s Chapel in Memory Park was our smallest church.
Get off the interstate from time to time. You’ll be amazed at what you find.
“Life doesn’t happen along the interstates. It’s against the law.”
–William Least Heat Moon, Blue Highways
James & Terri