How some Christians find God in Bryce Canyon and other national parks

BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK — The short, black cross is almost an afterthought, wheeled out of a supply closet moments before introductions begin. Its arrival wraps up 20 minutes of guitar practice and nervous chatter, all part of prepping for a weekly worship service.

“You have to sing loud and help me out,” says Gabrielle Sheeley, a 20-year-old college student from upstate New York, to the three young people sitting near her on the edge of a wooden stage.

Gabi Sheeley, left, Eric Meeks and Meleeza Hall talk before the 9:30 a.m. nondenominational Christian church service in Bryce Canyon National Park, Sunday, June 18, 2017. | Kelsey Brunner, Deseret News

The cross sits in a supply closet six days a week, out of sight during astronomy presentations and other meetings in the Lodge at Bryce Canyon’s auditorium. But on Sunday mornings at 8 a.m., it takes center stage as Sheeley and her three teammates lead a Christian service for those visiting or working at the park.

“Please open your hearts and minds and prepare for worship,” says 20-year-old Meleeza Hall to the 12 people assembled on red, cushioned chairs.

Sheeley, Hall, 22-year-old Eric Meeks and 20-year-old Amy Auble are still getting used to their new summer work and each other. Today, June 11, is only their second Sunday in the park. They’re learning hymn lyrics and practicing leading prayers.

The program that sent these four young people to Bryce Canyon, A Christian Ministry in the National Parks, doesn’t expect perfection. Sheeley can miss a few chords and Hall can stumble over her introduction, as long as the team is present…

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