193rd Salem Campmeeting kicks off Friday

COVINGTON, Georgia – One of the oldest camp meetings in the country will begin its services on Friday, July 9.

Camp Salem’s 193rd annual reunion this year is scheduled to take place July 9-16 and will resume in full swing after being limited to virtual services in 2020.

“We hated to miss last summer. We certainly did, “said Roland Vaughn, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Salem,” but we had no choice under the circumstances. A group of people made sure that we had some kind of online service every night, to kind of keep our ministry going, but this year we will get back to normal as much as possible with in-person services, courses, hotel meals and the real Salem experience.

Despite a hopeful return to normal this year, Salem will be deprived of one of his biggest supporters and leaders after the passing of Sam Ramsey, former chairman of the board, in August.

“Ramsey, former mayor and businessman of Covington, has devoted a great deal of time and energy to ensuring that Salem thrives through the ages,” organizers said in a press release. “His physical presence will be sorely missed, but the members of the Board of Directors are determined to continue the legacy he left. “

Camp meetings held a special place in Ramsey’s life, and he loved being a part of them. In June 2020, Ramsey shared that he had attended every camp meeting since he was born in the 1930s.

In a 2013 staff report by The Covington News, Ramsey’s annual efforts to help organize the events were described: “… Sam personally assures that the camp reunion continues to carry on traditions that have stood the test. time.

In 2014, Ramsey spoke to The Covington News about the appeal of camp meetings and why they were so special to him: “’Most of the time I feel like it’s so close. of heaven on earth as possible. It’s quite an experience. You have to be there and experience it for yourself.

Camp meetings have been held at the facility on Salem Road in Covington every summer since 1828, except for two years during the Civil War. According to the Salem Campmeeting website, Salem was a Methodist institution for 100 years, although it was never officially part of the church. In the 1930s and 1940s, the Salvation Army played an active role in the program. Now interfaith, Salem has a Methodist preacher each year and alternates between Baptist and Presbyterian preachers.

The Salem Tabernacle is part of the National Building Survey of the Library of Congress and still has wood chips on the floor. The entire campsite was listed in the National Historic Register in 1998.

Each day during the eight-day event, worship services are held at the Tabernacle at the Historic Salem Campground, located at 3940 Salem Road in Covington, at 11 a.m. (Saturday excluded) and 7:30 p.m.

There are also classes and activities every day, starting with “Morning Watch” at 7:30 am each weekday which is a short devotional period to start the day off right, Bible classes for all ages at 9:30 am to Salem United Methodist Church, adjacent to the campsite, and afternoon activities for children.

Homemade meals will be served at noon and around 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the historic Salem Hotel. The public is welcome to make reservations for any meal by calling 770-786-6841. Individuals are welcome, as are groups, with advance notice, the press release said.

Camp directors said they were “excited” about some changes to the historic hotel and food service.

John Howington and Joshua Swaney, who had a successful business serving Hollywood film and TV production companies, contracted with Salem to provide meals for the camp reunion and other events held at Salem.

The leaders of this year’s camp meeting are Reverend Don Martin, Reverend Steven Barnes and Reverend Byron Thomas.

Martin served 44 years in the North Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church, several of those years at Covington First United Methodist, as well as Alpharetta First Methodist and in the churches of Clermont, Rome, and Augusta. Martin is a graduate of Emory University, Mercer University, and the University of Chicago.

Barnes has been Acting Pastor at Oconee Presbyterian Church in Watkinsville since late March 2020. Previously, he served as Acting Pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Covington from September 2018 to February 2020.

Thomas is from Aliquippa, Pennsylvania. A US Air Force veteran, he received a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia, and an MA in Divinity from Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.

In 2016, Thomas graduated from the Association of Chicago Theological Schools (ACTS) program with a doctorate in preaching ministry from McCormick Theological Seminary. Thomas has been senior pastor of Ben Hill United Methodist Church in Atlanta since June 2013 and was recently appointed district superintendent for the South Central District, which includes DeKalb, Henry, Newton and Rockdale counties effective July 1.

Thomas R. Roberts will serve as platform director and musical leader, a position he has held since 1989 for the camp meeting.

Sisters Becky Ramsey, who is the widow of Sam Ramsey, and Alice Walker are expected to continue playing their roles as double pianist for the event, as they have for over 40 years.

“The Salem family is excited about the resumption of the camp reunion and everyone in the community is encouraged to attend,” organizers said in a press release. “Those wishing to get a preview of the camp reunion for the campers who attend Salem annually and spend the week are invited to a ‘Salem Tent Tour’ from 1:30 to 3:30 pm on Saturday, July 10. “

“Tents” is the term used to describe the rustic cabins encircling the campground, which dates back to the 1800s, when the camp reunion began, when families arrived by wagon and erected temporary tents to serve as their homes during the camp. week. -a long community gathering and revival, organizers said. Over time, families built permanent structures, usually with floors covered with wood chips or hay. Although the dwellings no longer look like what people today think of as tents, the name stuck.

“This is no ordinary home tour,” said Joe Cook, a member of the Salem board of directors helping to organize the event. “It’s a window into the past that has played such an important role in the religious and cultural heritage of Rockdale and Newton counties.”

The tour, free and open to the public, is sponsored in cooperation with the Rockdale and Newton County Historical Societies.

Participants in the “Tower of the Tents” are encouraged to walk around the campground and visit the tents included in the tour, as well as the tabernacle. Refreshments can be provided in many tents.

The Ramsey-Cunningham tent, said to be the oldest on the estate, dates from the 1840s and looks a lot like it did in the 1800s. Although it has been updated with electric lights and interior plumbing, the tent still sports wooden shaving floors.

The Ramsey-Cunningham tent is one of many that spectators will be able to admire on Saturday, Cook said.

“Each tent is unique,” ​​Cook said. “These are the sites of a lot of laughter, tears and brotherhood over the 193 years of the camp. They’re hardy, but for the tents that come back every year, that’s sacred land.

No registration is required for the “Tour des Tentes”. For more information about the tour, contact Cook at 706-409-0128 or email joecookpg@gmail.com.

Additional information about the 193rd Salem Campmeeting is available at salemcampmeeting.org.


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