YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. - Candlelight services at the park's Mammoth Hot Springs Chapel are scheduled twice on Christmas Eve, but worshippers who've been there before know the passing elk and bison sometimes delay the services a bit.
The 100-year-old chapel in the country's first national park stands to receive about 600 people Monday evening.
"We're in the crown jewels of God's creation," said the Rev. Bill Young, resident minister for the past 25 years. "So we have a very, very special place to celebrate."
Typically, many of the worshippers on Christmas Eve are among Mammoth's 300 or so year-round residents. Others travel from Gardiner and Livingston, or from Cody, Wyo. Tourists attend the services, as well.
All lights in the chapel are turned out and each person receives a candle. All the candles are lit from a single flame, intended to symbolize that Jesus Christ is the light of the world.
In its early years, the chapel built in 1913 drew some of the U.S. military personnel that oversaw Yellowstone soon after it was designated a park.
Yellowstone Deputy Chief ranger Tim Reid and his wife, Charissa, were married at the Mammoth chapel. She grew up in the park, and her father was the chapel's resident minister.
Now the couple's three children are growing up here. The family is used to seeing wildlife in the front yard of their home.