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The chapel was dedicated in memory of Dr. Robert F. Thomas on May 26, 1973, dating back to the days before Dollywood when the property was known as Goldrush Junction. Dr. Thomas was a beloved minister and doctor in Sevier County, Tenn., for more than 50 years. He brought Dolly Parton and several of her brothers and sisters into the world. Dr. Thomas was pastor of the chapel named in his honor until his death in 1981.
Located in Dollywood’s Craftsman’s Valley, this quaint country church seats approximately 150 people. It is a reproduction of pioneer churches found in the Sevier County area.
Every Sunday morning from late March through late October, 30-minute non-denominational services take place at 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. During Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas festival in November and December, services are at 5:30 p.m. every Sunday evening.
Items found throughout the chapel have a unique history of their own. The windows were first used in the Nancy Academy, the first secondary school in Sevier County. They were donated by D.D. Butler, a Sevier County farmer and businessman. The doors are from the old Pleasant Hill United Methodist Church and originally made by the church’s trustees around 1890. The chapel’s bell was first used in Sevier County’s Williamsburg Academy School; the pews are from the former Sevier County Courthouse.
The statue of Christ located in the pulpit area of is called “The Good Shepherd” and was carved by Dollywood master woodcarver Lee Warren during Dollywood’s 1995 and 1996 seasons. The six handmade quilts hanging throughout the chapel were made by local quilters and are replicas of stained-glass windows, each depicting a scene from the life of Christ.
The Robert F. Thomas Chapel was the site of television filming for Dolly’s Thanksgiving special several years ago. The church also has been the site of many marriages for both Dollywood employees. Although many requests are made, it is not available for weddings.
Dollywood is one of only several theme parks in the country to have a full-time chaplain. The park’s current chaplain is Joey Buck; the chaplain program is provided in cooperation between Dollywood and Smoky Mountain Resort Ministries.
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