While the rumours of its tininess might be slightly exaggerated, the Living Water Wayside Chapel on the Niagara River Parkway is very, very small.
Much too small, in fact, to accommodate the 50 or so who gather there to celebrate daybreak on Easter morning.
The little white chapel was built as an outreach project for the Faith Fellowship Christian Reform Church, and also as “a spot where people could stop and meditate and have a moment of prayer,” says Rick Meloen, an active member of the congregation.
Meloen remembers building the sanctuary in 1965, and describes its moves since, first to another property by Line 6, but ultimately the owners of the house were selling and wanted it moved again, says Meloen.
When it was time to move it the second time, Meloen reached out to Jim Walker, of Walker’s Country Market, to suggest the mini-church return to its roots. Meloen says Walker had been having the same thought, and “graciously allowed us to put the building back on his property. And now it’s back in its original spot,” he says.
The church’s single annual organized service is the one held at dawn (or 7 a.m.) on Easter Sunday. “We’ve been doing this for over 40 years,” says Meloen. He participates in the service by acting out a brief play with another congregant, discussing their disappointment at Jesus’ disappearance post-crucifixion. When they are assured by a third church member that Jesus has risen, and not scampered off, they are relieved, and the service proper begins.
The minister, Dr. Brian Ross, calls those gathered to step closer.
“As far as I know, none of you bites,” he says jokingly. People of all ages, many families with young children, are not unhappy to step closer to one another in the chilly drizzle of the morning.
Ross leads the group through a brief call to worship, and some favourite hymns are sung. “We sing a few familiar songs,” says Meloen, “so that we’re not asking too much of the people there.” Sure enough, the “alleluias” are the loudest, but the crowd does an admirable job with just lyric sheets, and some strong voices hold the rest together.
There are prayers and a brief sermon. “We keep it to only about 20 minutes, because we have to remember that there isn’t room to sit, so everyone is standing,” says Meloen.
After the service there is fellowship creating more warmth in the cold, grey morning. “We always have someone bring out hot cross buns and coffee for after the service,” says Meloen.