Leave your Religion in the Parking Lot...Eyler's Valley Chapel is for Everyone!

Leave your Religion in the Parking Lot
Eyler's Valley Chapel is for Everyone!
by Jennifer LB Leese

Nestled in a quaint, picturesque valley in the Catoctin Mountains in northern Frederick County, Maryland lies the most darling little chapel you'll ever lay your eyes on. Eyler's Valley Chapel allows visitors to step back in time.
Chapel's Creation
In the late 1700's Frederick Eyler, a Swiss immigrant along with his brother, purchased a large tract of farm and timberland in northern Frederick County, Maryland. They named the settlement Eyler's Valley. Frederick and his descendants were prosperous farmers and respected citizens. During the late 1700's and early 1800's there were a group of unsectarian ministers from various denominations who held great evangelistic union meetings throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia, together bringing great revival with many souls coming to Christ. They later formed the United Brethren in Christ Church. Changing these men's lives forever, they eventually formed Weller's Church in Thurmont, Eyler's Valley Church in Eyler's Valley and Otterbein Church in Harbaugh Valley.
For many years, they worshipped in several of the homes as well as the Hampton Valley Schoolhouse. On October 24, 1854, Articles of Incorporation were filed with the State of Maryland for Eyler's Valley Chapel as an organized body of worshippers of the United Brethren in Christ Church.
On April 23, 1856, Christian Lantz and his wife Catherine sold a piece of property to the Trustees of Eyler's Valley Chapel for $5. The following summer a stone Chapel was erected on the property. Years later (1894) Christian and Catherine sold an additional piece of property for $15 to the Trustees for the creation of a cemetery.
During 1892, the Chapel got a new name--Dodge Chapel, named after Mrs. Mary Dodge, a wealthy lady of Baltimore who made a generous bequest to the church for its perpetual upkeep.
For the next 50 years, the Chapel and Eyler's Valley saw times of prosperity and challenge. During that time the United Brethren in Christ Church, as a denomination, went through a merger and became the Evangelical United Brethren Church (EUB). The Chapel closed on a few occasions and sometime during that period was again called Eyler's Valley Chapel. The Chapel closed as an EUB church for the final time during 1945. It remained closed except for annual homecoming services held by former parishioners, many who had moved out of the valley.
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(BOLD AND MAKE STAND OUT)"Everyone's welcome here. We ask that you leave your religion in the parking lot."
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In 1969, Reverend Hamrick, a history buff and minister of one of the United Methodist Churches in Thurmont, attended the annual homecoming service. From that day on he volunteered to hold services at the Chapel on Sunday afternoons. Reverend Hamrick successfully obtained permission to reopen the chapel for non-denominational services.
On the first Sunday in September of 1969 the Chapel began regular services again for the first time in over twenty-four years.
Volunteers cleared the grounds and refurbished the Chapel and to this day see that the Chapel is maintained and ready for worship each week.
The worship service time was changed to Sunday evenings at 7 p.m. in 1971 and remains the same today except for Thanksgiving and Christmas services.
Starting in May all the way through November, the Chapel has a picnic in the pavilion the first Sunday of every month at 5:30 p.m.
Eyler's Valley Chapel does not have a regular pastor at the moment, but they hope to have a new pastor at the first of the year. Several ministers have asked to volunteer for the 7 p.m. Sunday evening services until a pastor is found.
The Little Chapel
This beautiful Chapel embraces its visitors in one large room guiding their way through candlelight. The only change is the heating system--two gas heaters replacing a large wood stove. Everything else is the same as it was 148 years ago. On top of using candlelight, the Chapel has no electricity and no plumbing--even the floorboards are original except where a few spots had to be replaced due to damage and wear. "Everything is pretty much original, and we try to keep it that way," says John Balmer, president of the Trustees of Eyler's Valley Chapel.
John and his wife Kathy don't believe that you have to be in an organized religion. "You have to have a good foundation," says John. The little church and those who preach, teach the basics and fundamentals of the Bible and what is taught in the Bible. Whatever the religion, "we expand on the teachings of the Bible." All denominations go to this stone church--they've had people from all walks of life...all religions...all over the world.
Periodically, John explains the basics of the Chapel (when there's a high number of visitors). "Our purpose here is to study the Bible and to go by the preaching of the Bible.
"Everyone's welcome here. We ask that you leave your religion in the parking lot."
John remembered the time when one of the former pastors took a survey by asking how many people were Catholic; how many were Muslim, etc. "There are 10-12 different religions represented here on any given Sunday evening," said John. "That's an average of 40-50 people."
This chapel has no actual membership...it is run voluntarily and has been that that way for as long as the Balmers' can remember. "I think the reason is that they didn't want to pull people from other churches. This is to be an addition to your other worship. They've encouraged people to go to another church; to have a home church," says Kathy Balmer, who coordinates the special music for the church such as the Carroll County Ramblers (one of the oldest bluegrass bands in the state of Maryland). Most of the time music is played on the old pump organ.
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(BOLD AND MAKE STAND OUT)"Everything is pretty much original, and we try to keep it that way."
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"Our purpose is not to be in competition with other churches, but to enhance each religion, whatever that may be," explained John.
"They come here to listen to the Bible and to find security in that the Bible hadn't changed," added Kathy.
Word of mouth has been the best promotional device for this small chapel. Although there are no official members...this chapel has quite a following.
At Christmas time the small stone chapel fills up. It can seat 110 people shoulder-to-shoulder, but during the holiday season, they seat over 140 people!
Eyler's Valley Chapel's purpose is simple: Seek to give honor to God and His only begotten Son our Savior Jesus Christ.
What they do with offertory
"We have very few expenses here." This chapel is volunteer-run and with there being no electric bill, salaries, etc., the Chapel is able to help the community more. From the offerings they receive, (most of the time very generous), a little is put aside for maintenance of the building and the rest is given away.
Eyler's Valley Chapel donates funds to local individuals in need, church members in need, to an area women and children's mistreatment center and God's missions in Ohio and overseas. "We've given to local people.
Most of our visitors are individually minded. They know that the money donated goes to help others, says Kathy.
Location and Contact
Eyler's Valley Chapel has changed the lives and hearts of many. For more information on the Chapel, call John Balmer at 717-765-4501. This unique Chapel is located 6 miles from Thurmont, Maryland and 4 miles west of Emmitsburg Maryland. For directions and to learn more visit www.eylersvalleychapel.com
2005 Services
* December services include: Thursday, December 15 through Saturday, December 17 at 7 p.m.
* Sunday, December 18 through December 23 at 7 p.m. & 8:30 p.m.
* Saturday, December 24 at 5:00, 6:30, 8:00, 9:30 & 11:00 p.m..