The first of the 2016 boat-in services on Lake Wawasee at the Oakwood Hotel will take place 8:30 a.m. Sunday, May 29.
This year’s theme is “Taste and See that the Lord is Good.”
Janet Norris from South Bend will provide the worship music.
Different musical artists will perform each Sunday during the 15-week season ending Sunday, Sept. 4. “All those music groups seem to be anxious to return,” said the Rev. Harlan Steffen, who started the boat-in services in 1969 with three other ministers: the late Ken Robinson, the late Ralph Wagner and August Lindquist.
The half-hour services include music, prayers and a short sermon from the deck of the S.S. Lillypad II, with area pastors presenting the weekly message.
“If you can’t do it in half an hour, you shouldn’t try,” said Steffen.
Attendees may bring a chair to the Oakwood Hotel shore, arrive by boat or assemble at The Frog restaurant at 7:30 a.m. for a free ride on the Lillypad.
The boat-ins average about 1,000 attendees per Sunday, according to Steffen. “We usually have about 200 to 300 people on shore and we average about 80 to 100 boats,” he said.
The capacity of the Lillypad is “approximately 100” and “a lot of times we have a full boat,” said Steffen.
“The tremendous response from the lake and the community is very inspiring to me,” he said. “It’s amazing we have this amount of people coming at 8:30 on a resort lake when you think people would be sleeping in.
“I meet these people along the way and daily people ask, ‘Is the boat-in ready to get started?’ They are just so complimentary about the service on the lake.”
Two boats are stationed on the water to pass out bulletins and the John Cripe family pontoon is available to collect offerings with a fish net and pass out dog treats following the service.
“The dogs know it,” said Steffen, “and they are ready to pounce.”
Monica Lambright handles the bulletin and offering duties on shore.
Services were conducted from the shoreline until “about 2011 when Oakwood fell apart and they didn’t let us on the beach,” Steffen said.
“We went to The Frog and talked to (former owners) Bob and Karen Fawcett. They were so gracious and eager to help us and provide the platform. They have never charged us, though we do make them donations. They provide coffee, juice and donuts at no charge for those who ride on the Lillypad.”
The new owner, Doug (Shoey) Shoemaker, “is just as gracious and helpful,” said Steffen.
“Sue White has been operating the system for a number of years. She has just done a wonderful job for us.”
Steffen likes the casualness of the gatherings he insists are not church services.
“People feel comfortable bringing their guests when they would never bring them into a church building,” he said. “People come in their pajamas, and kids are still wrapped up in their blankets.”
He also likes the outdoor setting. “It’s God’s great cathedral. It would be a match to Solomon’s temple.”
“The worship has almost become like a congregation and people have found good associations,” said Steffen, “but we want people to connect with a local church or their home church.”
The topics for the 2016 Lake Wawasee boat-in services (and Scripture verses) are:
May 29: How Great is Our God (Psalm 8)
June 5: A Taste of God’s Goodness (Psalm 34)
June 12: Lack No Good Thing (Psalm 23)
June 19: What a Father! (Psalm 103)
June 26: Milk and Honey (Deuteronomy 26-27)
July 3: It’s a Good Day (Psalm 118:24)
July 10: Amazing Grace (Ephesians 2)
July 17: Let it Go — Forgiveness (Colossians 3:13)
July 24: Love — The Best (1 Corinthians 13)
July 31: 20-20 Vision (Ephesians 1:17-19)
Aug. 7: Sharing — Live to Give (James 1:17)
Aug. 14: Taste 101 (1 Peter 2:1-3)
Aug. 21: What Doubts? (John 20:24-31)
Aug. 28: The Right Number — 3:16 (John 3:16)
Sept. 4: Faith That Works (James 1)