A glacial boulder situated in a natural amphitheater has
inspired reflection since 1818
The public is invited to attend one of Vermont's most unusual
traditions, a "rock service."
No this isn't about rock'n roll, it is the annual pilgrimage to
Meeting House Rock for a worship service set in a beautiful
The "Rock Service," as it is known, will occur on July 29 at 11
a.m. and commemorates the religious services first held at the Rock
The service also celebrates the natural beauty of the world
while recognizing the many ties that bind people to history, each
other, and a special place.
Located at the base of Shrewsbury Peak, just below the CCC Road
in the Calvin Coolidge State Forest, Meeting House Rock is a
glacial boulder situated in a natural amphitheater with forest and
sky forming a dramatic canopy overhead.
People settle on blankets atop mounds of soft mosses or perch on
old logs. Some bring folding chairs.
"The beauty and peacefulness of the setting are part of what
makes it a very sacred place," noted Parishioner Donna Smith, who
added that the history of Meeting House Rock contributes to the
site's "spiritual qualities."
The Reverend Cynthia Yee, who is also the hospice chaplain with
the Rutland-Area Visiting Nurse Association and Hospice, will
conduct the service. Her message is entitled "Discovering Wonder
and Renewing Hope." She said, "When we pause in our busy lives to
discover beauty in nature or loving relationships among people, we
usually have to share our wonder and gratitude with others.
In sharing our stories, we may find hope for new ways of building
Special music will be offered by Roberta Hemmer on the French
horn and Daphne Hemmer on guitar. Dorothy Rice, music director,
will lead the hymns.
"The music and hymns always sound extra special in this
setting," commented Roxanne Ramah, church clerk and musician.
Early residents first met at the Rock for religious services at a
time before there was a church building and when Elders preached
and conducted services in homes, at a schoolhouse, or (in good
weather) at the Rock. Elder Knapp also performed baptisms in a
depression or "baptizing hole" near the Rock. Baptisms have also
occurred in more recent times, as well as marriages at the
By1840 the congregation had grown to 250 members and built the
rustic but handsome Northam Church, still in use today. With the
church building providing a house of worship, the Rock site was
abandoned, but it was revived for the Northam Church's Centennial
in July 1923.
Obscured by the growth of the forest in ensuing years, the Rock
was forgotten until rediscovered by residents out walking. The
church began an annual pilgrimage for a summer service in 1939. A
church picnic often followed at the adjacent Northam Picnic Area,
built by the CCC in 1935 when they were building the CCC Road over
to Route 100 in Plymouth.
The tradition of a summer Rock Service continues along with a
"potluck picnic" with visitors always encouraged to experience this
old-time Vermont tradition.
The church cordially invites the public to also share in the
fellowship and fun at the picnic afterward. The potluck picnic will
be held at the Northam Church so visitors will get a chance to see
the historic building with its hanging oil lamps and original pump
The Northam Church was built with lumber from a mill located on the
CCC Road and the story goes that when the machinery broke down,
Mary Russell Wright hand sawed lumber by lamp light so the men
would have their materials the next day.
If it rains on July 29, the service and picnic will be held in
the Northam Church at 11 a.m. Meeting House Rock is only reachable
via the North Shrewsbury end of the CCC Road this year due to
Tropical Storm Irene having washed out sections of road on the
The Rock Site is about three miles east of Pierce's Store in
North Shrewsbury. (Visitors can reach the store from Rutland
via the Cold River Road in North Shrewsbury.) Parking is at the
adjacent former picnic area/Stone Chimney or along the road. Casual
dress is suggested.
For more information or directions, call Shrewsbury Pastoral
Care Minister Rita Lane (775-2578) or church officers Sue Kelley
(492-3738) or Roxanne Ramah (492-3675).