A Christian Ministry in the National Parks, Wawona Campground Amphitheater, Yosemite National Park, California
“Why do we sing about Heaven but don’t talk about it?” Sarah asked. She said this in a place that a number of people would describe as Heaven, Yosemite.
Sarah is a representative of ACMNP (the name of the organization is an acronym, A Christian Ministry in the National Parks. I don’t know why it’s not ACMITNP). This Christian organization is not a part of the National Parks system, but the Park System works with them to facilitate worship ministries throughout the country, mostly during the summer.
We went to Yosemite National Park on Sunday, in part as a celebration of Mindy’s birthday. Our son Bret joined us as we drove an hour or so from home to the Wawona Amphitheater, at the south end of the park. We weren’t camping -- we were daytrippers up from Fresno. ACMNP facilitates two other worship services in Yosemite, another 9:00 am service at the Lower Pines campground and a 10:00 am service at Tuolumne, but Wawona was the closest to us.
Three young people were running the service, Sarah, Austin, and Matthew. We arrived a few minutes before the service was scheduled to begin, and they were debating about starting the service on time or waiting for Michael. They said Michael wasn’t officially in the ACMNP program; he hadn’t gone through the training, but he’d been supportive throughout the summer. Matthew had phoned to remind him, and Sarah and Austin teased him when he arrived, saying he was late because that phone call slowed him down.
Austin said that this Sunday service was one of their larger groups of the summer, even before Michael got there. I asked when they started doing services. Austin said their first service was the last weekend in May. They were supposed to have a service the weekend before that, but no one showed. So she and Matthew had discussed Romans.
ACMNP works by recruiting people who support themselves with work in other jobs in the National Parks. Matthew and Michael work in the General Store, Sarah and Austin work in Recreation (and Laundry) at Tenaya Lodge. I asked Matthew if they ever got together with the teams who do services in Lower Pines and Tuolumne, but he said though they had a barbeque together, it was hard enough with their schedules for the Wawona team to find a time to meet and plan.
I really appreciated that the service had a good balance of singing, Scripture reading, prayer, and message -- and still wraps up in about half an hour. There were a number of small children at the service, and they were well behaved throughout, which I think says something about how the service was run as well as something about the kids and their families.
Some people say, “I don’t go to church, I worship in nature.” ACMNP does a great job of reminding people that worship shouldn’t be an either or situation. You can gather with folks and praise God while appreciating His Creation. One should never exclude the other, but how great to be able to do both together.
I especially appreciated Sarah’s talk about Heaven in that location, because of the incredible thought -- within sight of trees, rock formations, and flowing river, in one of the most beautiful locations on Earth -- that Heaven will top it all.
Service Length: 27 minutes
Sermon Length: 10 minutes
Visitor Treatment: We were all visitors, and Sarah, Austin, and Matthew greeted each person as they arrived. After the worship service was over, we were asked to sign their guestbook, and the ACMNPers talked to each person in attendance, asking where they were from, what brought them to Yosemite, and other friendly questions.
Our Rough Count: 17
Probable Ushers’ Count: no ushers, and we could all count to 17
Snacks: no snacks, but they’ve considered bringing some coffee to share
Musicians: acoustic guitar (woman)
vocalists (man, woman)
vocalists (man, woman)
Songs: “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee”
“Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing”
“Blessed be Your Name”
“Shout to the Lord”
Distance to Church: 63 miles
Open WiFi: no
Tie/Suit Count: noneChurch Website: http://www.acmnp.com/about