When Sheldon and I travel we are always on the lookout for historic, unusual, or ruins of old church buildings. On a recent trip across Alabama we discovered the Sallie Howard Memorial Chapel Rock Church. It is truly unusual in that it is built into the side of a massive boulder.
Sallie Howard Memorial Chapel
Milford W. Howard was born in 1862 and as a young man exhibited an urgency to accomplish many things. His dreams were not in vain when he moved to Ft Payne, Alabama in 1880 to practice law. By his nineteenth birthday he was admitted to the bar becoming one of the youngest men to ever achieve this status.
With a long list of dreams he became a United States Congressman at age 32, serving two four-year terms. He pursued law, business, public speaking, writing, and for a while was a script writer in California. By 1923 he had returned to Ft Payne with a vision to establish a special school for the boys and girls of Lookout Mountain. This venture ended abruptly when his funding ran out and the school closed.
Poor health began to sap his energies – but not his dreams. With all his remaining days he worked to complete the building of a chapel.
Finding the perfect spot on a hill adjacent to DeSota State Park in Ft Payne Alabama, he began his work.
Both his health and the weather grew worse as the weeks rolled by and his efforts were beginning to look impossible until many of the local community jumped in to assist in the completion. Though he had dreamed of a lighted cross on top, and beautiful stained glass windows, he ran out of time and financial resources. The cross at the top is wooden and the windows are clear glass, but the work was completed.
When you arrive at the church on the hill you immediately notice that the back of the church is merged with a giant boulder. The grounds are beautifully landscaped and offer an oasis for contemplation, inspiration, and solitude to meditate on spiritual thoughts.
The Pulpit is built with stones from the Little River, and when standing there we observed that a tall preacher just might bump his head on the boulder behind him.
Shortly before the death of his wife, she had written a letter with the words you will see printed on a large beam across the front of the auditorium. “God Has All Ways Been As Good To Me As I Would Let Him Be”. High above that, Milford had added his words, “Immortality.”
Colonel Howard returned to California after the completion of his dream. Upon his death, December 28, 1937, his widow had his cremains returned Alabama to be interred in the rock of the chapel, as per his wishes.
Today the chapel is owned by the DeKalb Baptist Association for use as a Chapel Ministry. There are Sunday morning services held each week at 10:00 a.m. for hikers, campers, and the local congregation who desire to come together for a time of worship and singing.
The dream and vision of building this chapel came to pass during the lifetime of Colonel Howard – but it didn’t die with him. Today it is still used as a place of worship, and the grounds as a place for quiet meditative walks and reflection.
The Paved Path for Prayer
Hither, Thither, and Yon
As I strolled along the meditation path through the woods I came upon this sign post, “Hither, Thither, and Yon.” Hmm… I’ve heard that all my life but never though much about its meaning. However, as I had walked through the quietness of the morning I applied it to my life as wherever I am right now in my spiritual walk with Christ, to wherever I am to go, and beyond, I want to travel the path with joy, enthusiasm, anticipation, and confidence, for “I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39 NIV).
So hither, or thither, or yon, I will walk on confidently and joyfully.
Have you been to the Sallie Howard Memorial Chapel? Maybe you have visited other unusual churches. I’d love to hear about them.