On August 1, 1847 William West Skiles was ordained to the deaconate in Valle Crucis. For thirteen years Brother Skiles was a shepherd to the mountain people. He walked or rode on horseback, often in severe weather, to read and answer letters for those unable to do either, to explain legal documents and settle disputes, to pray with his beloved flock and to teach them the catechism. He probably traveled 4,000 a year. He continued to live in poverty, never married and gave his obedience to his bishop and to the priests who came to administer the sacraments.
He delighted in the growth of the mission on the Lower Watauga River and aspired to help the faithful to build their own chapel. With contribution of labor, lumber and small financial gifts, he designed and supervised the construction of a simple, but architectually beautiful chapel, dedicated to St. John the Baptist.
On August 22, 1862, Bishop Atkinson concecrated the chapel with Brother Skiles taking his part in the glorious liturgy. The holy desire of his heart had been granted, but failing health did not permit him to enter this fair and lovely chapel again. He died of cancer on December 8, 1862. His remains were buried near the entrance to the crown of his ministry, the church of St. John the Baptist Lower Watauga.
Today, worship services are held on Sunday mornings from Memorial Day through Labor Day weekends. Occasionally, services of Compline or Evensong are offered. Directions to St. John's can be found here. Those who participate include members of Holy Cross who enjoy the change-of-pace of a less formal worship experience in the summer. Others are seasonal residents of Valle Crucis or visitors to the area, and some are folks who have little or no church affiliation but find St. John‘s to be a welcoming, safe place to ask questions of faith.
The beauty of St. John’s architecture and setting has lured many artists and photographers to choose it as their subject. It has also become a popular site for weddings. Some who married here return for a visit on a summer Sunday. There’s no heating system nor piano, but a "new" antique organ was recently installed. The church’s wooden walls provide marvelous acoustics for worship music which might include flute, fiddle, banjo, guitar, harmonica, bass, keyboard or voice.
The St. John's Summer Concerts are held beginning Memorial Day Weekend. Ensuing concerts are the first Sunday of each summer month. Concerts are at 5 p.m. and cost $5.00 per person. Children's admission is free. All are welcome.
The St. John's Concert series remains "on hold" during the Covid-19 pandemic. Check back with us in the future for Concert plans and dates.
122 Skiles Way Banner Elk 28604 In the heart of Valle Crucis