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By Zoie Koostra

Swan Chapel Celebrates 50 Years of Community


Photo provided

Everyone is invited to join Swan Chapel for their 50th Anniversary Celebration June 15-17.

WAN LAKE- Swan Chapel of Swan Lake will celebrate its 50th anniversary this weekend in an event that focused on the past, present and future of the church.

The first pastor of the church, Ron Pierce and the church's current pastor, Chuck Cushman discussed the history of the church and all that God has provided for their congregation since the church's founding.

The church had humble beginnings, Pierce said. The first events he and his wife Carol put on were an after school bible study and a Sunday school. Then, they began holding church services in Swan Lake's Community Hall. Finally, the congregation purchased a building to transform into a place of worship.

"I had my mind set on a beautiful white church overlooking the lake," Pierce said. "I'd drive to work at Goat Creek [youth camp] and say 'Lord, where's it at? Where am I building this beautiful white church?' And one day He said 'There it is' and it was the old Red Barn Bar."

Pierce avoided mentioning to anyone his thoughts about the bar, he was still fighting the idea. But when a young girl in the congregation passed away after being hit by a car on the highway and her father wanted to honor her with a lasting memorial, he suggested they look into buying the property.

"Just out of the clear blue, nobody knew what was going through my mind, her dad said 'Have you ever thought about that Red Barn Bar property down there?'" Pierce said.

Carol Pierce wrote to the owner of the building to inquire about purchasing it. When the owner found out they were a church, he offered the property to them for half price, $8,500. It was another year before the property was clear of all its liens and ready for purchase and even longer to get the building in good condition, but it was finally ready in 1973.

For all of the church's renovations and expansions, of which there are many, Swan Chapel has had some hard times too. After Carol had a heart attack, Pierce said the couple knew it was time to step away. Gary Morton, a man who had been one of the children in Pierce's youth group and went on to become his assistant pastor took over the job.

"About six or seven years after he took over, he fell, he had a scaffolding collapse and it killed him," Pierce said. "That was a shock, but the church family here, I was so proud of them. For a year and a half, the guys just stepped up and people came out of the woodwork and the church thrived."

Pastor Curtis Wallace was finally selected as a replacement but when he left after about three years, the church began looking again.

"[Cushman] won't tell you, but he was kind of filling in as an interim for the church, and the congregation just fell in love with Chuck and his wife Susa, and they said 'Why in the world are we looking somewhere else when we have what we've been looking for right here?'" Pierce said.

Throughout the church's history, its members have always been involved in the wider community. Pierce and his wife ran a vacation bible school for up to 120 children from the area and Pierce would drive an old school bus to pick the children up each day.

The church is still reaching out to their community now, by holding community coffee hours each week, a community thanksgiving dinner and a firewood cutting, which are all open to members and non-members alike.

The pastors both recognized that Swan Lake has lost a lot of the young families with children that lived there when the church was founded. Pierce said it is hard for children to grow up and then continue to live in Swan Lake when there are not many options for them to be able to make a living.

"There's lots of things that change in the community over time," Cushman said. "But God has been so faithful in different ways."

Some of Cushman's hopes for the future include helping the community become a better place for families again.

"The school closed also, so that means less resources for families, so they move into town," Cushman said. "We have dreams of eventually starting a school here again that would be able to support more families here. We're just trying to follow how the Lord would lead us as we go through the seasons."

Photo provided

An early drawing of Swan Chapel.

Cushman also emphasized that the anniversary celebration was not just the church celebrating itself, but celebrating the legacy and impact on the community. He sees his congregation as not just the people who come to church on Sunday but the whole community.

"We don't see ourselves as a special group of people or a separate group," Cushman said. "The desire is, that everyone could experience the love and care of the Lord without ever coming in the doors of the church."

The festivities will start at Swan Chapel, at 22376 MT-83, at 6 p.m. on Friday with a fellowship hour followed by a worship service focused on the past events in the church. Saturday's event will follow the same schedule with the theme being the present. Sunday morning, worship focusing on the future will begin at 10 a.m. with a potluck lunch to follow.

For more information, please visit the church website at


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