There was a time when it seemed like every living room in America had at least one of those Precious Moments figures on display. Even if you never bought one, you’ve surely seen them. They usually have some sort of biblical reference, or uplifting theme.
In 1978, an artist by the name of Sam Butcher started creating these statues after having great success drawing similar characters on greeting cards. There were twenty-one statues in the first product line. Like his cards, they were a smashing success – and demand was through the roof. To date, more than 2,500 variations have been produced.
Mr. Butcher wound up in a hotel in Joplin, Missouri when he heard from a real estate agent about some land in nearby Carthage. He wound up buying the property and made plans to build a chapel that would pay tribute to the product line that had brought him such good fortune.
The chapel first opened in 1989 and it’s quite a sight. Full disclosure – I happen to think the little statues are sort of creepy, but certainly don’t judge anyone that likes them. In fact, a lot of people still do. While visiting the chapel (which is right next to their world headquarters) I saw people buying up gobs of the statues in the giant gift shop.
You walk down a wide sidewalk with life size Precious Moments figures on each side which leads to a fountain. The fountain has more life sized statues holding what appear to be bowls that shoot water into the air. I couldn’t decide whether to chuckle, or be impressed. If you love these statues – you’ll be thrilled with this place.
As you walk through a gate, the chapel sits straight ahead in a building that from the outside doesn’t really look like anything that special. Once inside, it’s quite different.
Sam Butcher hand painted the entire chapel with various scenes and characters. Stained glass windows are along the far walls with separate rooms for reflection or prayer. There’s a room with books where you can write down the name of someone you’ve lost in your life. There are also some special statues and pieces of history relating to the Precious Moments story.
You can walk around the property which is quite relaxing but it’s a little obvious that traffic is not quite what it used to be – and there’s some signs of aging on some of the fountains and structures. However, the chapel itself seems to be well maintained.
There is a museum which wasn’t open when I stopped by. Again, with lower foot traffic these days, they probably can’t afford to keep it open all year.
They do offer guided tours which could be interesting if you’re truly interested in the history or the product line. Otherwise – walking around on your own is probably your best bet. It’s free to visit.
The chapel and visitors center is located at: 4321 South Chapel Road, Carthage, Missouri 64836.