By Kevin Greer, Lakeside Communications Manager

Even though Hoover Auditorium has been closed the last two summers, we have grown spiritual together as we gather online and in-person in different spaces around Lakeside.  We are excited to once again gather in Hoover Auditorium for the Chautauqua Community Worship this season.

The last few years, Senior Director of Religious Life & Pastoral Care Rev. Dr. Charlie Yoost said, “We had no choir or projector screen, and we didn’t use the sound system. All have returned this summer.”

Other activities moved around during the pandemic. Faith for Living, with a daily theme from the Preacher of the Week, returns to Orchestra Hall Monday-Thursday at 9 a.m. after a difficult year at Steele Memorial Bandstand, not because of the location, but the weather. The crew needed at least two hours to setup for the event, but if it looked like threatening weather was on the way, it had to be canceled before work got started.

“There were times it looked like it was going to rain, but never did,” Yoost said. “Then sometimes it did rain. Having it back at Orchestra Hall will take some of the hassle out of it.”

One thing that hasn’t changed is a full Preacher of the Week lineup this season. This year, 10 different denominations will be represented with the most theological and ethnic diversity in Lakeside’s history, each delivering a different message appealing to a broad spectrum.

“We don’t look for anybody radical,” Yoost said. “We want to find the ones who challenge people to go deeper into their faith. We deliberately bring in preachers from different faiths because we want a wide variety and a lot of diversity.”

Yoost is responsible for finding preachers, but also takes suggestions from Lakesiders and the guests he books. He said he almost has all of the 2023 Preacher of the Week schedule set. He books a year in advance because pastors can only be gone from their church a limited number of Sundays a year.

“You have to get ahead,” Yoost said. “Once they’re committed to too many gigs, they have to turn us down.”

Preacher of the Week sponsors provide a set amount of $5,000 and it balances out among all the preachers depending on travel distance. The entire Preacher of the Week and sponsor list for this summer can be found at lakesideohio.com.

Yoost leads two Sunday morning services. The first is the Lakefront Worship with the Rev. Dr. Scott Wilson at 8:30 a.m. at the Steele Memorial Bandstand. It includes Holy Communion every week, a variety of Christian hymns and contemporary songs, a message and prayer requests.

The other is at Hoover Auditorium, where the Preacher of the Week is introduced along with special music and the spoken Word. Both attract large congregations, with up to 300 people attending the Lakefront Worship and anywhere from 500-1,000 at Hoover.

There are two other Sunday services. The Lakeside United Methodist Church hosts a traditional church setting at 9 a.m. with a vibrant style of worship using inspirational song and motivational words led by the Rev. Karen Graham. John and Bonnie Wilkie coordinate the Sunset Praise Service on the Pavilion West Deck at 8:30 p.m., featuring praise music and traditional hymns.

A new addition is Roman Catholic Mass at the Train Station. Father James Peiffer officiates the Thursday service at 6:30 p.m. Many people already know him because he’s a retired pastor from St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Marblehead.

“There are a lot of people here in Lakeside who can’t get to church Saturday night or Sunday,” Yoost said. “This is an opportunity for them to have a weekday Mass that’s right here and they don’t have to drive to get there, except maybe by golf cart.”

Another weekday service is Vespers by the Lake at the Bandstand on Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m. The Preacher of the Week shares a brief homily following a time of singing and prayer.

A complimentary Church Pass may be obtained for all Sunday worship services as well as weekday services.

The Religion Pillar offers many activities for kids, too. The Underground is open nightly from 6-10 for teens to play ping pong, foosball, video games, cards and more. On some nights Bret Johnson, along with interns Abby White and Connor Rowe, will take the group to play mini-golf or go out for pizza. For the second year, young adult staff and guests gather for the Dinner Along the Trail, an opportunity to gather for faith and fellowship on Tuesdays at 6 p.m. outdoors on the Train Station.

John and Bonnie Wilkie lead Middle Grade Madness at Cherry Park Monday-Thursday from 9:30-11 a.m. Kids ages 10-14 discover the relevance of God in their lives, enjoy music, meet new friends and participate in games and activities.

Accomplished children’s singer-songwriter Chip Richter is well-known around Lakeside. “Mr. Chip” leads a procession every Sunday from Hoover to Bradley Temple for Children’s Church.

Since 1996, he’s been running God Squad, featuring music, interactive lessons and a craft. The sessions are Tuesday-Thursday for ages 4-6 (9-9:45 a.m.) and 7-9 (10-10:45 a.m.) at Bradley Temple. Richter will also perform a family-friendly concert with his band The Munks at Hoover on Wednesday, June 22 at 7:30 p.m.

“Chip is a Lakeside icon and has a huge following,” Yoost said. “It’s easy to catch on and be part of all the things he does.”

Picnic in Perry Park continues as a beloved Lakeside tradition. Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m., everyone is invited to a special picnic in the park that includes grilled hot dogs, baked beans, macaroni salad, watermelon, chips, cookies, water and lemonade. It’s a special time to gather along the waterfront each week, meet new friends and participate in games. Guests are asked to contribute a freewill offering for their meal.

“It’s an inexpensive meal and a lot of fellowship,” Yoost said. “You might sit down next to somebody you don’t even know and strike up a conversation.”

Religion is a big part of the Chautauqua Movement, but the Rev. Dr. Yoost understands it’s not for everybody and doesn’t want it forced on anyone.

While he likes that it can be discussed in an open forum in Lakeside, he just wants all guests to enjoy themselves when visiting.

“The spirit of Lakeside is really positive,” the Rev. Dr. Yoost said. “People are very open and accepting to each other whether you have strong, little or no faith. People also feel free to talk about religious things when sometimes you’re more reluctant in a secular setting. It’s not crammed down anybody’s throat.”