Harriman Chapel offers backcountry worship, fellowship

Sometimes, while associate pastor Dick Lennox is conducting a worship service at the Harriman Chapel on a Sunday morning, he looks up and pauses. The congregation gravitates toward the picture window that overlooks a pristine mountain meadow. A herd of elk makes its graceful way across the grounds, unaware of their human admirers. In a few moments, the service resumes.

Harriman Chapel is the focal point of the Harriman Retreat Center, a gathering place on 205 acres of remote mountain land on the Colorado-Wyoming border. Lennox thinks it may have been a cattle ranch at some time in the past, but when Calvary Chapel of Cheyenne bought the place eight years ago, it had most recently been owned by the Greek Orthodox Church and had been was shared by them and the Congregational Church for a time.

“The property had been for sale for several years when Calvary Chapel, hoping to use it as a place for outreach, made a low-ball offer that, to our surprise, was accepted,” Lennox said.

In addition to the chapel, the compound includes a lodge that sleeps 45 with a recreation area, a duplex and outdoor sports facilities — everything from a ball field, lighted tennis and volleyball courts to a miniature golf course and a lake stocked with fish. At the time of purchase, the place was in disrepair. Thousands of volunteer hours over the last two years went into renovation. Construction of a community center adjacent to the chapel with a capacity of 115 has been underway.

“Nearly all the work has been done by volunteers,” Lennox explained. It’s a pay-as-you-go operation and we figure we’re about $40,000 from completion of the community center.”

The center features a complete commercial kitchen, a large central room suitable for meetings, workshops and dining, accessible to the chapel through a wide doorway. “Our mission is to provide an affordable facility for nonprofit organizations,” pastor Jim Kuhns said. Kuhns and Lennox are both retired military and associate pastor Dan Meyers, the third member of the team, worked for many years at Harvest Farm Rehabilitation Center north of Wellington.

“If in the process of sharing the community center we encourage some people to join the church,” that is also part of our mission, Lennox said. About 150 families live in the area and will be able to use the community center for weddings, family reunions, neighborhood meetings, sewing bees and picnics. A patio area is planned where barbecuing will be popular.

The chapel regularly attracts between 20 and 40 people from the surrounding Harriman community and Cheyenne, Laramie and, Fort Collins for the 9 a.m. Sunday service that is followed by a potluck dinner — yes dinner — at 10:15 a.m.

The non-denominational Christian service reflects the chapel’s philosophy: “Love God completely, love people authentically and make disciples.” After a time of worship, the service includes verse-by-verse Bible study. There’s no formal choir or Sunday School but there’s music in the form of guitar, piano or accordion played by chapel members. “We worship, we study and we break bread together,” Lennox said.

“We have no paid staff,” Kuhns said. “All of us are volunteers.” A collection is taken each week and donors choose between contributing to mission work, the fund to upgrade the community center or helping with administrative costs like heat, electricity and the meat for the Sunday meal.

The small but active congregation supports two children in Compassion, the world’s leading organization in holistic child development, the Voice of Martyrs that aids persecuted Christians worldwide, and Camp International Los Domos that provides help constructing youth camp projects in a dangerous area of Mexico.

The light, airy chapel with attractive, comfortable seats is big enough to accommodate more than 100 people, and the acoustics are so good that no one needs a microphone. A small bell tower adds to its charm. Every Sunday some lucky child calls worshippers by ringing the bell.

Lennox said that despite the remote location, weather has caused him to miss just two services in eight years. “There were a few times when I probably shouldn’t have made the drive, but 95 percent of the time, the roads are passable,” he said.

From Cheyenne Harriman Chapel can be accessed from exit 342 on Interstate 80. From Fort Collins, take Red Mountain Road off U.S. 287 and drive east for 9.71 miles (on dirt) and look left to see the Harriman Retreat Center sign.

A midday streak of lightning sliced the sky as I wound my way up the dirt road to Harriman. The rain didn’t amount to more than a few drops, but the lightning, a crack of thunder that followed and the fact that I wasn’t at all sure just where I was headed, added to the mystical nature of this remote and lofty place.

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