Chaplains in the Parks Ministry Marks Milestone
Fifty years of outdoor Christian ministry will be celebrated July 18 at state and federal parks and private campgrounds across Pennsylvania, according to The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, Pa.
Dave Flumerfelt, chaplain at Prince Gallitzin State Park, said there will be separate programs to celebrate the anniversary of the Chaplains in the Parks program at each site, but he doesn’t have anything planned as yet for Prince Gallitzin, which is located near Patton.
“Each park will do something special for morning services,” he said.
In addition to Prince Gallitzin, the state parks closest to the Johnstown area are Shawnee State Park in Bedford County, Keystone State Park in Westmoreland County and Laurel Hill State Park in Somerset County.
Flumerfelt said Lake Raystown Resort in Huntingdon County also has a chaplain.
Each year, 15,000 people attend Sunday morning worship services at parks and campgrounds and 30,000 campers are served by the chaplains who provide activities such as hymn sings, campfires, games, summer Bible school, story times and movies.
At Prince Gallitzin, Flumerfelt also has a karaoke night and gospel concerts.
Chaplains also must provide pastoral care in emergencies.
Now in his seventh season as a chaplain, Flumerfelt is a licensed minister in the Church of the Brethren, but said chaplains do not have to be ordained ministers.
“They have to be a college student and love the Lord,” Flumerfelt said.
“Seminary students use this as training to get credits.”
Because he lives six miles from Prince Gallitzin, Flumerfelt is at the park seven days a week, but some chaplains serve part time on weekends while others have as many as three parks to oversee.
New chaplains are interviewed by a committee at each park and get their feet wet on Memorial Day weekend.
They attend the chaplain training program June 1-3, where they learn about the order of worship and the use of music as well as crafts, games and movies.
“How much you put into it is how much you get out of it,” Flumerfelt said.
Flumerfelt said the Chaplains in the Parks program began in 1960 at Cowan’s Gap State Park, near Chambersburg, Franklin County.
“Maurice Goddard, who was then head of what is now the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, went to the Pennsylvania Council of Churches,” Flumerfelt said.
“At first, they wanted to have a different denomination at each park, but we wanted it to be interdenominational.”
The Chaplains in the Parks ministry is sponsored and funded by various church denominations, ministerial groups, local churches, camper contributions, offerings and the Friends of the Chaplains in the Parks group.
Flumerfelt said Pennsylvania is the only state to have a Chaplains in the Parks program.