By Lincoln Shea —
For many in the horseracing industry, travelling from city to city is part of the business. Finding a church while on the move is not easy. That is why Turf Paradise provides an on-site chapel and a chaplain for its jockeys, trainers, and extended family of those who work in the horseracing industry.
Reverend John Shumaker has been the on-site Chaplain at Turf Paradise since 2007.
When the track is in season, he presides over church services on Sundays at Turf’s on-site chapel. He also has bible study Tuesday nights. And he prays with the jockeys before the races every day. He has said the prayer service helps the jockeys feel safer and more confident.
Shumaker is proud to be part of a network of racetrack chaplains across the country. He is a Senior Chaplain at the Race Track Chaplaincy of America (RTCA). Shumaker serves as Vice President of the Board of Directors of the RTCA. He was born in Mesa and grew up in Tempe. Shumaker has also served as a chaplain during the summers at the Arapahoe Race Park in Denver.
Even factoring in COVID-19, Turf Paradise has a season that is much longer than most other tracks which makes the establishment of an onsite chapel more practical. It is similar to an established parish with volunteers who assist in maintaining the chapel in addition to providing music and seasonal decorations.
The backside at Turf Paradise is like a small city where as many as 2,000 horses are stabled when live racing is underway. The Chapel is the de facto hub of that community, along with the restaurant and bar. Sunday services are generally well attended by people of multiple faiths.