Our Lady of the Pines Catholic Church is minuscule. That much is undeniable. But in a nation competing for the title of biggest and smallest whatevers, this church’s true charm lies in the fine line it walks between ambiguity and jarring truth-telling.
Beginning with the basics, Our Lady of the Pines is touted by signs and old postcards as the “smallest church in 48 states.” Measuring just 24-by-12 feet containing only six pews capable of holding 12 parishioners total, this claim doesn’t seem far-fetched, despite the many contenders in the United States that could give it a run for its money. At the time of its construction in 1958 by Lithuanian immigrant Peter Milkint, neither Alaska nor Hawai’i had joined the Union, lending a diegetic air of sensibility to the church’s claim.
However, a visit to Our Lady of the Pines today will reveal that the church has been meticulously maintained throughout the years, though its caretakers remain invisible. Masses aren’t really held there; like the tradition of many ancient churches before, she exists as a holy way station or a point of refuge. Over the course of decades of loving maintenance, her staff has quite intentionally chosen to continue not updating her title as “smallest church in 48 states,” therefore leaving wiggle room that is nothing short of fascinating. Two states’ worth of churches will always be able to be smaller, and Our Lady of the Pines’ claim will remain, technically, true.
The church cannot lie… but it also might not be telling the truth.
If this isn’t charming enough for you, perhaps the world’s smallest “mailing office” located out back will do the trick? Postcards depicting Our Lady of the Pines are available on-site, paid via honor’s system (see again: no one consistently manning the House of God except The Man Himself) can be mailed in a deposit box near a wall of 18 USPS-official post office boxes. Laminated adjacent is a bulletin reading:
“This is not a POST OFFICE, JUST A MAILING OFFICE.
CARDS and letters mailed here are either taken to the ELGON POST OFFICE or mailed in our mail box.
This sudden honesty in the face of so much ambiguity, though jarring, makes sense: though the Lord may both work in mysterious ways even as he considers lying a sin, mail fraud is a straight-up secular crime.
Know Before You Go
While the official mailing address places this site in Eglon, WV, visitors will do much better to search on Silver Lake, WV. The church is well-marked and is located just off Rt. 219.