The Everywhere blog

Another Roadside Attraction: The Precious Moments Park & Chapel

Posted by David Ozanich on November 10, 2010 11:46 AM
GEDC0551.JPG Being a reformed Catholic, I'm not one to spend a great deal of time in churches. I've only made one pilgrimage to a chapel, and that was the non-denominational Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas because it is adorned with the paintings of abstract-expressionist Mark Rothko. But then I was alerted to the existence of the Precious Moments Park & Chapel in Carthage, Missouri by a dear friend and I now clearly must make a trip to this surreal and rather amazing place.


Firstly, if you have ever been in a Hallmark store or visited your grandmother you probably know about the Precious Moments brand. It specializes in saccharine representations of doe-eyed young children often paired with aggressively upbeat taglines. Usually they are made out of some sort of porcelain or generic pottery so that they can live in a curio cabinet in a stunning three-dimensional form. I'm not really a fan.

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However, when I learned that the creator, Samuel J. Butcher, built a chapel inspired by the Sistine Chapel (!) in the hinterlands of Missouri, I knew it was time to reconsider everything I thought I knew about Precious Moments. Here's a blurb from their website:

Sam used his beautiful and innocent Precious Moments messengers to bring well known and loved stories from the Bible to life in dozens of murals - all hand-painted by Sam himself. From the story of creation to the promise of the resurrection, the Chapel tour guide takes guests through the many stories of God's love for us.

The art on the east side of the Chapel depicts the Bible's Old Testament stories; while New Testament stories are shown on the west side. The mural "Hallelujah Square" celebrates the lives of real children whose lives ended too soon, but whose stories continue to bring a message of love, hope and peace. All of the murals combine to cover nearly 5,000 square feet - truly a breathtaking sight.

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Because your humble blogger has not yet been to this fantastic site (though trust me, travel plans are now afoot) and because I thought I couldn't wait to share this with you, dear reader, I reached out to some lucky travelers who have stopped by this fine establishment for some firsthand accounts.

From Aaron:

The most incredible/creepy part of the entire experience is the Precious Moments Wedding Island where couples married in the Precious Moments Chapel can spend their honeymoon night in a Victorian cottage in the middle of a man-made lake, losing their virginity surrounded by tourists.

Also not to be missed are the Precious Moments Stations of the Cross, a walking path that follows life-sized Precious Moments statues through the crucifixion and resurrection.

Plush-headed Precious Moments characters are also available for photo-ops.

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And from Mike:

Neither my boyfriend nor I are into religious figurnes, but we happened to be going down near Carthage on a work assignment and felt compelled to stop by. So, you probably don't need to be a fan to appreciate the kitsch value of the experience.

I remember that the grounds were littered with life-sized Precious Moments figurines, and it was weird to see the PM children next to actual children due to their disproportionate head shapes and doe eyes.

The chapel itself is done in the vein of the Sistene Chapel, except more adorable.

The most interesting part of the chapel is that there is one unfinished angel on the ceiling. Apparently, PM creator Sam Butcher was in the middle of painting that angel when he became fatigued and disheartened and briefly considered giving up. Then he had a conversation with God and decided to finish the project after all. He left the angel unfinished to remind him that he almost gave up on the project except by the grace of the Lord... or something like that.

Is there anything left to say? Obviously this is a MUST-SEE next time you are passing through Southern Missouri. The chapel and park are open year-round, but closed on major holidays like Christmas (which seems weird since it's a chapel, but hey, who am I to object?).

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Photos via A Traveling Dog, Mosers, Webshots and Montgomery's blog.

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