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Lanier Christian Church offers a boat ride, worship at Lake Lanier
Lakeside service happens every Sunday from Easter to September
Lanier Christian Church associate minister Mac Hill, from left, senior minister David Simpson and lake minister John Simpson take turns preaching at the lakeside service at the pavilion near Gainesville Marina. The service includes a free boat ride across Lake Lanier from Longwood Park off Pearl Nix Parkway to the pavilion off Dawsonville Highway. Pickup time is around 9 a.m. before the 10 a.m. service. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Lanier Christian Church boat ride, lakeside service

When: 9 a.m. boat ride to 10 a.m. service; drop off at 11 a.m. after service

Where: Boat ride pickup at Longwood Park, 20 Pearl Nix Parkway Gainesville; service at Gainesville Marina, 2145 Dawsonville Highway, Gainesville

How much: Free

Contact: Bruce Cavell for boat ride at 574-527-4702 or visit

Taking in the beauty of God’s creations is easy to do while cruising the calm waters of Lake Lanier early on a peaceful Sunday.

Lanier Christian Church takes advantage of the lake that’s essentially in its backyard each Sunday between Easter and September by offering a weekly lakeside service at 10 a.m.

“It’s a casual, nature-friendly environment where the beauty of God’s creation is very obvious,” said the Rev. David Simpson of Lanier Christian Church.

The lakeside service takes place at the pavilion at Gainesville Marina, 2145 Dawsonville Highway, in Gainesville.

Simpson has been at Lanier Christian Church for almost 40 years and said the lakeside service is an extension of the church’s ministry.

“The people make the service an outstanding time just to be together,” he said.

The service started six years ago and has continued to grow throughout the years. David’s son, John Simpson, said more than 150 people worshipped there Easter Sunday.

The younger Simpson preaches regularly at the service and is one of its original founders. He said he doesn’t like to measure a ministry in numbers but average Sunday crowds are smaller, numbering between 30 and 40.

“We‘ve never been skunked, but we’ve always had at least one,” John Simpson said. “Crowds had always been kind of small.”

But the service is growing, especially since Bruce Cavell provides a taxi-like service to and from the venue each Sunday. Cavell offers to pick up people at Longwood Park around 9 a.m. in his pontoon boat — which holds 11 people — and ferries them to the 10 a.m. service.

“I like to think it’s Gainesville’s best-kept secret,” Cavell said of the lakeside service.

He said so far the response hasn’t been overwhelming, but if at any point more than 11 show up for the ride he will happily make multiple trips between the park and marina.

“It’s a free boat ride on beautiful Lake Lanier, then a half-hour worship service, then a half hour back,” he said.

In all, the trip and the service last about two hours, from 9 to 11 a.m.

For now, Cavell said people interested in riding in his boat to the Sunday lakeside service should show up at Longwood Park, 20 Pearl Nix Parkway, in Gainesville between 9 and 9:15 a.m. He said notice would be nice but is not necessary. He can be reached at 574-527-4702.

“It’s a real pretty little boat ride,” he said.

Arriving by boat isn’t mandatory. People who choose to worship at the lakeside service can drive to the marina on land.

The service itself is brief and casual.

Mac Hill, an associate minister at Lanier Christian Church, said people can come in shorts or swimwear. It’s also a good way to get people involved with church who don’t feel comfortable going to a more formal service.

The service begins with a time of worship and music followed by a closing song and time of reflection. In all, it lasts about 30 to 40 minutes.

Just being still and experiencing God on the lake can be moving.

“I grew up on the lake, my parents live on the lake,” John Simpson said. “I love the lake. I think there’s a lot to do with healing in God, talking about his word, casting our sins in the deepest seas and I think there’s a lot of ... when you listen to a message on the lake, I don’t care if you daydream at the lake as long as you’re daydreaming about the Lord and get lost with him.”

John Simpson was one of the people who helped start the lakeside service six years ago.

“I knew God had something on my heart and I didn’t know what type of ministry I wanted to do,” he said.

After people from Gainesville Marina approached David Simpson about starting a worship service, John Simpson helped make it a reality.

“It’s just been a vision that’s beyond me, way beyond me,” he said. “I think we’re pretty blessed to be able to have the lake.”

Many people from the church came together to help with different aspects of the service ranging from children’s activities, to juice, to audio and visual technology.

“It’s a team effort where everybody just kind of helps out,” John Simpson said. “It’s really something God has taken a hold of this year.”

In addition to the service, a lemonade stand is on site and corn hole games are set up for fellowship opportunities afterward.

“We pray every Sunday for the safety of others on the lake,” John Simpson said. “But to take a little bit of time for God before you get on the lake is pretty neat.”