The Holy City
It is November 29. The 33rd day of the year – only 32 days remaining in 2011. As a child, I always noticed that adults would comment on how fast the year went – I never understood this concept because time always seemed to creep at an excruciating slow pace to me. But here we are, the morning of November 29, 2011 with the Christmas season in full swing. And I thought I would share with you a place just outside of Lawton, Oklahoma.
Nestled within the Wichita Wildlife Refuge is a place called The Holy City. When we took my parents to the Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge last week, we also explored The Holy City. Due to it’s unique story, I thought The Holy City deserved it’s own post. Back in 1926, a local pastor noticed that the area surrounding Wichita Mountains resembled Israel during Biblical times. He took his Sunday school class up a mountain and presented a tableau of the Resurrection. The service became so popular that it soon became an annual event, referred to as the Passion Play.
Throughout the 1930’s, buildings such as the gateway to Jerusalem, Calvary’s Mount, the Temple Court, Pilate’s Judgement Hall, Watch Towers, the Garden of Gethsemane, Lord’s Supper Building, Herod’s court, and a chapel were constructed, and a ceremony to dedicate the Holy City was held in 1935. In 1939, a record 225,000 people filled Audience Hill to watch the sunrise performance.
The chapel was built to resemble America’ oldest church, Christ Church in Alexandria, VA. For the history buffs out there, that is where George Washington worshipped. It is absolutely beautiful and has become a popular wedding ceremony location. I do think that the cigarette disposal takes away from the old world charm, but it is Oklahoma – what are you going to do?
Inside the chapel, the ceiling boasts a fantastic mural.
I still find it hard to believe that just outside of Lawton, Oklahoma is a recreation of Jerusalem.
It is all very surreal.
In fact, in 1949, there was a movie called The Lawton Story (alternatively titled The Prince of Peace), a drama set around the annual passion play. According to imdb.com, all of the actors were natives of Lawton, Oklahoma and their accents were so strong that all o their lines had to be re-dubbed. The New York Times states that some reviews poke fun mistakes, such as telephone wires behind a crucified Jesus and wristwatches worn by some town people, but the audience is made aware that the movie about an outdoor performance of a play.
And overlooking The Holy City is an 11-foot-tall white marble statue of Christ, erected in 1975. While The Holy City outside of Lawton, Oklahoma pales in comparison to the holy cites of Jerusalem, Bethlemhem, Nazareth, and Capernaum, it is still an interesting place to visit. Small towns throughout our country are filled with little pieces of quirky history and Lawton, Oklahoma is not disappointing. It may not be the most exotic locale we ever live in, but it just may be with only one with a Holy City.