Each summer, thousands of vacationers descend on Deep Creek Lake to enjoy boating, skiing and fishing for bass or pickerel. They are also able to worship at special outdoor liturgies thanks to a ministry of St. Peter in Oakland that helps make sure God is a part of their vacation.
“They come to Mass by car and by boat, and most bring their own chairs or blankets for the grass,” said Father Donald Parson, pastor of St. Peter, noting that an altar is set up in a the bandstand area of a patio for Mass at “St. Peter at the Lake.” When it’s too cold to be outside, the liturgy moves indoors to a local tavern.
“The vistas are just breathtaking,” the priest said. “It’s an incredibly beautiful area.”
Deep Creek Lake was built by the Youghiogheny Hydro-Electric Corporation when the Pennsylvania-based company acquired rights to build dams across Deep Creek and the Youghiogheny River.
Owned by the state of Maryland and maintained by the Department of Natural Resources, the lake covers 3,900 acres.
Masses at the lake have grown in popularity in the last two decades, according to Father Parson. They average about 700-900 in attendance, with the Fourth of July weekend liturgy attracting more than 1,000 people. Most come from the Pittsburgh area, while others visit from across Maryland and beyond, he said.
Outdoor 9:30 a.m. Masses are offered at the lake beginning Memorial Day weekend behind Uno’s Restaurant and last through the summer and into the fall, according to Father Parson.
During the winter, Mass is celebrated at McHenry Methodist Church for visitors who come to the mountains of Western Maryland to enjoy skiing and snowboarding.
The parish is currently working to build a large pavilion that will serve as an outdoor church to accommodate the vacationers. The church purchased 14.5 acres of land along Mosser Road in McHenry in 2001 for the project.