The Story of Swan Chapel’s Beginning Years
Swan Chapel began with the Bible club movement in Swan Lake, Montana, resulting in several ladies of the Bigfork area conducting a Vacation Bible School (VBS) in June of 1968. The VBS sessions were held in the local schoolhouse. Following the VBS, a group of faithful began assembling to pray that there would one day be a church in Swan Lake. Eventually, an adult Sunday school class was formed in Swan Lake, with one of the ladies -- a widow with five children -- donating $40 to start a building fund.
The property on which Swan Chapel is situated was formerly the Red Barn Bar, built in the 1940s. The owners of the bar were sent a letter of inquiry in 1970, asking if they would consider selling the property. The following response was received:
"A rather strange thing happened. A few days before we received your letter we had one from a party in Missoula, asking about the Barn [property], and I had just sat down to the typewriter to answer his letter when I received the mail with your letter. I'll answer your letter first and wait until we hear from you before making any other arrangements. At this time, and to anyone for any other purposes, we would insist on nothing less than $15,000. For your purposes, a church, you can have it for $8,000 with $2,000 down and interest at 7%." Time and time again the Lord worked miracles in businesses writing off liens, taking care of lawyers fees, and even reducing the price, all without anyone asking for favors of any kind.
An interdenominational church, Swan Chapel Inc., was legally formed the summer of 1970. The Swan Lake Clubhouse was donated to be used by the church, and the 4H Rural Life Sunday in May of 1971 saw the beginning of regular church services for Swan Chapel. On June 30, 1971, the title for the Red Barn Bar property was cleared, and the deed was signed.
Work soon began on the existing building, and the little house that housed the original bar was torn down. Individuals donated their time and skills in doing jobs such as wiring, insulating, carpet laying, and plumbing. Many individuals gave specific items, such as organs (the original one purchased by a woman who did not even attend church), a pulpit, PA system, platform furniture, and the communion table. Other items were purchased from memorial funds. The Bethany Lutheran Church and the Eidsvold Lutheran Church provided 92 chairs, and the Little Brown Church donated wooden pews. Ladies in the church had a shower to fill in other necessary items.
On November 18, 1973, the congregation met for the first time in the new church building. A dedication service was held May 26, 1974, with the prayer that Swan Chapel would continue to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the community and to all who fellowship here. By the spring of 1975 the church sanctuary, with a capacity of 112, was overflowing. In April of 1981, the church board voted to purchase one-half acre south of the church for an expansion project. Many volunteers donated their time and talents in doing the work to add a 52-foot extension to the north side of the sanctuary. This would house a 16-foot conference room, provide a larger platform with a built-in baptistery, and add another 14 feet to the sanctuary. The back of the sanctuary was restructured to provide a fellowship area, as well.
The people of Swan Chapel continue to see the faithfulness and provision of the Lord. Twenty percent of all offerings, unless otherwise designated, are given to support missions, both home and abroad. In addition to the Sunday school and worship services, there are various home Bible studies and other church activities.