Robert F. Thomas Chapel – The Church Journey


June 16, 2020 –

I had the privilege to visit the Dollywood’s chapel, which is an iconic fixture of the theme park. The chapel is named Robert F. Thomas Chapel. The building is named in honor of the doctor who delivered Dolly Parton. Dr. Thomas was a mountain doctor and traveling preacher. He was important to Sevier County, because though he had the medical training to set up his practice anywhere, he chose to commit himself to this rural community. He was an advocate of immunization and set up clinics all over the county to make better healthcare accessible to more people. He was willing to reach patients by whatever means necessary, and often that meant walking to make house calls. [1]

The chapel is not as old as it looks. Built through the winter before Goldrush Junction 1973 season, the chapel was dedicated May 26 of that year. Before Dollywood, the park was known as Silver Dollar City, Tennessee. Before that, it was Goldrush Junction. Park managers made the decision to build a chapel that would be a gift to the community. As a nod to the strongly held Christian faith in the region, Sevier County residents rallied in support: donations poured in from churches, schools and individual families. [1]

Though the chapel was built in the early 1970s, its construction and contents lead you to believe it’s an old country church from the turn of the century. That’s because the park’s theme was Appalachian life in the late 1800s/early 1900s. The windows came from Nancy Academy, the first secondary school in Sevier County (1806-1890). They were donated by D.D. Butler, a farmer, businessman and Christian layman. The doors for the chapel were donated from Pleasant Hill United Methodist Church. They were made by the trustees of the church in 1891. Some of the pews also came from Pleasant Hill United Methodist Church. The rest came from the old courthouse when they re-modeled. The pews date back to the late-1800s. The chapel bell was given through the efforts of “Mrs. Brad King” and was dedicated to her father John Emert. It was formerly used at the Williamsburg School. [1]

Chaplain Joey Buck has the prayer request bound every year. Guests are invited to sign their names, or share prayer requests, as they come through the chapel. According to Chaplain Joey, every Dollywood guest is either at the park celebrating or trying to escape. Either way, there’s a place to jot your prayers. There’s a weekly church service at the chapel.  [1]



Dollywood is a major theme park attraction in East Tennessee. I love visiting in December when everything is decorating with thousands of lights and Christmas trees throughout the park.  

As dusk was falling the church glowed with the lights outlining its structure. Just before the entrance a displayed Baby Jesus in a manger, which set the mood for the service. As I approached the entrance, I discovered that all the church pews were completely filled with park guests. I found a place to stand at the back of the church to watch the service.

Fast forward to June 15 the park just opened for the 2020 season as it was delayed from COVID -19 and remained closed from March through May. I made my visit on Tuesday June 16 and spent time at the church taking pictures and in prayer.



Christian fellowship can present itself in different settings. The church services at a theme park is unique. The service I attended in December I was happy to see the church completely filled with people standing outside listening to the service over the outside speaker.  The attendees were a diverse group of people from all around the country joined together in fellowship worshiping in a theme park.

The early Christians clearly emphasized the importance of fellowship. (Acts 2:42) NIV notes, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”

Christian fellowship can have an impact on unbelievers. Jesus told His disciples, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). The love Christians have for one another can influence others toward faith in Jesus Christ. I firmly believe with the struggles we face in today’s society we need Christian fellowship to sweep the nations with peace and love for one another.


Dollywood guests are invited to participate in a 30-minute service every Sunday the park is open: 11:30 a.m. from March through October and 5:30 p.m. during our Smoky Mountain Christmas festival. I attended a Christmas service on December 10th, 2019


The church is listed under the Park website:

Date Visited: 2019 December 10, June 16, 2020 

Location: 2700 Dollywood Parks Blvd, Pigeon Forge

May our Lord continue to bless this chapel in Jesus name.

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” – (1 John 1:7) NIV

Please Pray for all our churches as they continue to face challenges in the year 2020.

May this find you well and happy, God Bless




Author Amber Davis, (August 26, 2019) “Stories Behind Robert F. Thomas Chapel”  Retrieved from

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