As a sharp alpine wind cuts through a group of five individuals huddled near a Latin cross placed atop the Big Blue Express chair lift at the Squaw Valley Ski Resort, skiers filter off the revolving chairs and descend the mountains, emitting staccato outbursts of joy.
“Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far and Grace will lead me home,” the small group sings amid the outbursts of glee and the clamoring wind.
Five minutes prior to a modest rendition of “Amazing Grace,” Scott Capshaw, pastor at First Baptist Church, began the 20-minute service by encouraging those gathered to look at the undulate mountain terrain as it rolled toward the sleek blue of Tahoe unfolding in the eastern distance.
What better way to worship God than by enjoying the wonders of his creation, Capshaw asked the modest congregation, trying to stay the blasts of the cold wind.
The pastor, who recently came to Tahoe by way of Alaska, began preaching, reciting 1 John 4:7-8, emphasizing “God is love.”
“If we ended the service now and you took away one thing, it’s that God is love,” Capshaw said.
He then talked about the spectrum of fear and love and how love is based on trust. He talked about how when you first strap on a pair of ski boots and stare down the slope, it is possible to be conquered by fear and paralysis.
Continuing on, he said that trusting in God, in his love, is the key to overcoming the paralysis of fear and opening yourself up to the thrill and enjoyment of life.
Skiing as a metaphor for the triumph of faith over fear is a metaphor the First Baptist Church has been providing to skiers who can’t make it to church on Sundays since 1972, said Debbie Wohler, who coordinates the church’s ski ministry.
Along with Squaw Valley, Wohler marshals volunteers for services at Alpine Meadows, Northstar, Mt. Rose, Diamond Peak, Homewood and Sierra at Tahoe.
The services are nondenominational, Wohler said.
“We stick to the basics of the teachings of Christianity,” she said. “We believe that God loves us and wants a relationship with us, and we are not interested in arguing about how many angels there are on a pinhead. There’s no need to make it hard.”
The services generally attract anywhere from two people to as many as 50 people depending on the day and the time of year, Wohler said.
“I think it is enough that somebody skies by the cross, sees it and thinks of God,” she said.
For information on the ski ministry or the First Baptist Church, Tahoe City, please visit tahoeministries.com.
To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4239.