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Church On The Hooch to make a splash this Sunday

Worshipers can set sail at 10 a.m. this Sunday, June 6, 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, lawn chairs, and boats galore.

It’s the 10th 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 the Rev. Ben Wills, LaGrange First Methodist’s senior associate minister, the 10 a.m. service will include songs, prayer, and a special “Blessing of the Boats,” according to a press release from the church.

LaGrange First Methodist held Church On The Hooch last year in the midst of the pandemic, but due to state safety restrictions for the grounds of the Boy Scout camp, only boaters could attend. Organizers are excited that this Sunday, they can return to welcoming the community to come by land and enjoy the service onshore. Those coming on land will need to bring lawn chairs for the 45-minute service.

Due to the pandemic, LaGrange First Methodist’s Dr. John Beyers, senior minister, began a new tradition last year when he held a “Blessing of the Boats” ceremony.

“Because of COVID-19, last year we had to postpone Church On The Hooch during a time when we’d had to cancel our in-person worship services as well,” he said. “We felt it was especially fitting to bless the boats present in 2020 because they were the vessels that made it possible for our community to worship together in a socially distanced setting. We had all been living in a sea of uncertainty during a time when we as a church could not physically offer comfort and reassurance.”

Wills will offer the “Blessing of the Boats” again this year to ask for God to surround the boats and their occupants with love and protection, he said.

Others delivering the message during the 2021 services are Will Locke, LaGrange First Methodist’s youth minister, June 13; Mayor Jim Thornton, June 20; the Rev. David Adamson, Trinity On The Hill United Methodist Church, June 27; Dr. Colin Dacus, Harmony United Methodist Church, July 4; Carol Cain, Hogansville United Methodist Church, July 11; the Rev. Yolanda Jones-Colton, Smith Chapel United Methodist Church, July 18; the Rev. Carl Von Epps, Warren Temple United Methodist Church, July 25; Jeanne Jones, children’s minister, LaGrange First Methodist, August 1; and Dr. John Beyers, senior minister, LaGrange First Methodist, August 8.  Laegan Smith, a 2020 LaGrange High School graduate, is the music coordinator.

Church On The Hooch’s ministry is expanding this year to include a weekly small gathering for lake-lovers to dive deeper in their faith this summer. “Soul Connections on the Water,” a community group hosted by local couple Tina and Glenn Quiggle, will meet from 5 to 6:30 p.m. on Sundays from June 20 to Aug. 8 at the Hooch Hideaway at Highland Marina. Everyone is invited.

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 five 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.”

For additional information, visit lagrangefumc.org. You also can find information on the Church On The Hooch” Facebook page for updates, and send a private message on the Facebook page for further questions.