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FUMC to host Church on the Hooch beginning Sunday

Worshipers can set sail this Sunday to experience LaGrange First United Methodist Church’s “Church On The Hooch,” a casual outdoor worship service with no pews or altars — but with sand, sun, water and a bevy of boats.

It’s the ninth year of Church On The Hooch, held on the banks of the Chattahoochee across from Highland Marina at the Boy Scouts’ Camp Lumpkin, between West Point Lake buoys 50 and 51. Close GPS coordinates are 33.0600 and -85.1427. In addition to a sermon by Dr. John Beyers, LaGrange First Methodist’s senior minister, the 10 a.m. service will include songs, prayer and a special “Blessing of the Boats.” 

Traditionally enjoyed by land-lovers and boaters alike on Sunday mornings from Memorial Day to Labor Day, this year’s Church On The Hooch had to be delayed several weeks due to the current coronavirus pandemic. This year’s experience will take “worship on the water” to a whole new level: Due to state COVID-19 regulations for the grounds of the Boy Scout camp, only boaters may attend, and they must remain onboard throughout the service.

“We really wish we could offer our community the opportunity to sit and visit onshore with the ministers and a very limited number of volunteers as we worship, but due to state camp regulations, we must limit guests to boaters only,” Dr. Beyers said. “Still, we are just extremely grateful for this chance to gather and worship together in person while adhering to health and safety guidelines.”

With boats being the vessels making it possible for in-person worship, LaGrange First Methodist’s ministers felt it would be fitting for the first Church On The Hooch of this season to include a “Blessing of the Boats.” 

“What we all have been through together this year has, of course, been unprecedented,” Beyers said. “We’ve been living in a sea of uncertainty during a time when we as a church physically can’t offer comfort and reassurance. 

“As we wondered how our ability to offer Church On the Hooch would play out amidst the pandemic, it occurred to us that our boats are offering our congregation and our community a sea of tranquility in the midst of that sea of uncertainty. We felt like a blessing would be very fitting so we could ask for God to surround the boats and their occupants with love and protection.”

Church member Mike Wilson spearheaded Church On The Hooch in 2012 — when he was the Boy Scouts of America’s district commissioner — as a way for the Boy Scouts to give back to their community. Other local churches have been gracious over the years in hosting the services, and about four years ago, it evolved into a ministry of LaGrange First Methodist.

“We had been to Lake Martin and Lake Harding where they have outdoor churches on the water,” Wilson said. “We realized there wasn’t an opportunity for worship on West Point Lake for people who vacation from out-of-town, or people from Troup County who are boating on the lake on the weekends. With Church On The Hooch, they don’t have to choose between dressing up for church or going to the lake; we can meet them where they are so they can do both.” 

The 10 a.m. services will last for about 45 minutes and will be held each Sunday from June 28 through July 26. (The July 12 service will be held at 5 p.m. because of a prior commitment at the camp.) 

Those offering the message each week will be Dr. Beyers on June 28; the Rev. Colin Dacus, Harmony United Methodist Church, July 5; the Rev. Ben Wills, senior associate minister, LaGrange First Methodist, July 12; Carol Cain, Hogansville First United Methodist Church, July 19; and Will Locke, youth minister, LaGrange First Methodist, July 26. Laegan Smith, a 2020 LaGrange High School graduate, is the music coordinator.

For additional information, visit “Church On The Hooch” on Facebook for updates, and send a private message on the Facebook page for further questions.

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