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Skiers stoked about God

Services on Colorado slopes let worshippers Go Tell it on the Mountain

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Skiers from all over sing hymns atop the Colorado mountains.

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Skiers from all over sing hymns atop the Colorado mountains.

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. -- For the Brown family, skiing usually means missing church.

Same for camping, hiking and other outdoor activities.

"Most of the time, we end up having to go to Saturday night service so we can do something on Sunday," said Danny Brown of Colorado Springs, Colo. "If we have (plans) for the whole weekend, we just miss out."

But with the right people present, church can be anywhere -- even at 11,000 feet on a snowy mountainside. That's where the Brown family came across the Copper Mountain Community Church on a Sunday.

"It's great to come out and worship the Lord in this way," Brown said. "We're told to praise God regardless of what we're doing, so this is a great opportunity for us to do that."

Most ski areas in Colorado offers some kind of on-mountain service, and the church at Copper Mountain is one of the oldest. For 20 years, volunteers have helped skiers find some religion, and not just when they confront their mortality on a double-diamond run.

"As Christians -- especially if you're active and you're a skier and you want to go on Sunday -- sometimes your schedule doesn't allow any other days, but you hate the fact you're going to miss your worship time," said pastor Dale Holland, one of three lay ministers who run the service.

There is an early-morning service in the base village, and the on-mountain service begins at 12:30 p.m. On a warm and sunny Sunday, more than two dozen skiers showed up, the spine of the Tenmile Range forming a backdrop.

Brutally cold or only slightly cold, the non-denominational service is short: some songs, a little prayer, a quick sermon by Jacquin, more singing and it's over. They pray everyone skis safely, that they don't see any medical helicopters in the air. They thank God for the scenery of His creation. And in a dry winter, they pray for snow.

Then they pass a backpack around -- mountain version of the collection plate -- and people hug and ski off.

For the pastors, it's about more than a chance to ski.

"It helps bring my belief in Jesus Christ really home for me," Holland said. "When I'm up here and I see how beautiful it is, and some of the emotions of people that are up here, it's an absolute job, and it just energizes me."

Pam and John Hermansdorfer, on a ski vacation from Florida, have been regulars at the services for years.

"There's not a better place to worship God than on a mountaintop," John Hermansdorfer said.

"And what is the song we always sing?" asked his wife.

In unison: "Go Tell it on the Mountain."

 

-- The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.)

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 5, 2014 D15

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