12 churches stand firm in Arizona town

Published: Sunday, Dec. 23 2012 5:00 a.m. MST

Bob Dylan sang about "Deslolation Row," a tawdry neighborhood in Mexico.

Now somebody needs to sing about "Salvation Row" — a strip of 12 church houses that grace a high bend of Lake Powell Boulevard in Page, Ariz.

The churches stand side by side, like 12 sentries guarding the town — like 12 Christian soldiers defending the faith.

And next week, they will become the "12 Churches of Christmas."

"When the Bureau of Reclamation laid out the town of Page," says the city's building inspector, Brett Slavens, "the Bureau wanted to put all the gas stations, markets and churches by each other."

That was in 1957, when Page was built as a bedroom community for those toiling on the Glen Canyon Dam. Now, 55 years later, Page has around 8,000 inhabitants and the buildings and businesses have scattered.

Yet the 12 churches stayed firm, as if awaiting a grand event. And there's something encouraging and powerful about seeing so many denominations standing shoulder to shoulder.

Locals affectionately call the strip of chapels "Church Row" or "The Holy Curve." And for Christians, it does make for handy faith shopping.

Among the string of Christian chapels you find more than one Baptist Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Assembly of God, Episcopalians, Jehovah's Witnesses and the Church of the Nazarene.

And Christmas is always a popular time at "The Holy Curve," though Slavens says there shouldn't be any traffic or parking problems, "as long as the whole town doesn't decide to attend church."

Given Page's rambunctious history and proximity to so much first-rate weekend recreation, that likely won't happen soon.

But Sunday services aside, it's simply fun to walk the street and see the pride each faith takes in the upkeep of its grounds and the ways each denomination tries to interest visitors (the LDS Church has a small sign showcasing its Family History Center, for instance, while the marquee at St. David's Episcopal touts classes on "Centering Prayer").

Will more religions take a cue from fellow faiths and build churches on The Holy Curve?

Probably not, says Slavens, since sewer hook-ups would not be possible.

Besides, for churchy folks, the number "12" sounds about right — like the number of apostles and 12 tribes of Israel.

Or, as mentioned at the beginning, those famous "12 Days of Christmas."

EMAIL: jerjohn@deseretnews.com