Inside the tent: a unique religious experience in Lewistown

Charlie Denison

“What’s that?” Many people asked last week as they drove past the Truck Bypass onto Main Street.

On the corner of the truck bypass, people could see a large tent at Hawthorne Park. For the past 11 years, this tent has appeared in Lewistown during the week of the Fourth of July Independence Day, bringing with it another kind of celebration.

This traveling tent is a time warp of sorts. Those who enter get to experience “old time religion,” as the man leading worship has a distinctive style reminiscent of characters in the Coen Brothers cult classic, “O Brother, Where Art Thou.”

Pastor Kenny Marr and his worship team came to Lewistown by way of Athens, Georgia, stopping at several congregations along the way. Marr regularly comes to Lewistown to visit Lighthouse Baptist Church Pastor Robert Snyder, wife Eunice and their children.

This year, a wide variety of local musicians joined the Marrs and Lighthouse Baptist regulars inside the tent, including worship leaders from St. James Episcopal and First Presbyterian Church. Kenny’s son, Steve, joined the band, playing keyboards and guitar. J.D. Moore, a stand-up bass player who has performed at several local churches, recruited the group.

Every evening, the band backed up Pastor Snyder’s son, Joshua, who sang traditional songs such as “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” “Just a Closer Walk” and “Power in the Blood.” Robert also led the band. Other members of his family joined him, as well, carrying powerful background vocals.

Other members of the faith community also got involved during the week, as Mary Jo Crook sang a song about baptism and Wayne Stark brought his horse into the tent.

To demonstrate how we much follow the Lord, Stark dropped the rope leading the horse and compared God’s followers to the horse standing still.

“Just like the horse trusts in me completely, we must trust in the Lord completely,” Stark said. “Drop the rope and relax.”

Then Kenny took over, commanding the room with his tenacious oration.

The sermon he gave focused on the story of Joshua and his call to serve the Lord.

“We need the war before the battle begins,” he yelled. “Some of you will never defeat Jericho until you get hold of the chapter of your life now.”

Similar to Stark’s message, Kenny asked people to trust in the Lord.

“Winning the battle is possible,” he said. “It is possible to be victorious in the Christian life. There is a God in heaven pulling for you, saying ‘that’s my child.’”

But it’s not an easy road, Kenny said.

“It’s painful,” Kenny said. “When God speaks to you about something inside of you that’s in rebellion to God, it’s not something you stand up and say, ‘Woo! I’m glad God showed me that today. When God digs down inside of you, it’s a painful experience.’”

It’s not just painful; it’s paralyzing, but it’s profitable, Kenny said, as God must reveal weakness in his followers before going to battle. Such reproach from God is what we need as sinners in order to bring us to the light.

“Put your hands together and give God some glory in the tent,” Kenny said, rising loud vocal responses from many in attendance.


Trouble on the road

Last Friday, when leaving Lewistown and driving through the night, the Marrs had an accident,

“One of the vehicles with a trailer left the road and flipped over,” Robert Snyder wrote on Facebook. “No one was seriously injured and we are truly praising God for that.”

Despite the accident, the Marrs fully intend to return to Lewistown next July.

For more information on Marr’s ministry, go to



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