Porches, fam­ily and wor­ship

Salem Camp Meet­ing com­mences for the 186th year

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - KAYLA ROBINS krobins@cov­news.com

Just off Brown Bridge road and the mas­sive Wal­mart and Publix cen­ters, there’s a place where you don’t need a cell phone or a watch, hard­wood floors or a pri­vate apart­ment.

The bell rings to sig­nal meals and wor­ship, and a bed and a roof house you and your fam­ily.

At the 186th Salem Camp Meet­ing, more than 100 fam­i­lies, many multi-gen­er­a­tional, gather to play and pray for the an­nual, week-long re­vival-style re­union July 11-18 at the Salem Camp Ground.

Dawn on Satur­day, July 12: A trum­peter calls for campers, also called ten­ters, to wake up for morn­ing ser­vices.

Get­ting out of bed, many of which are in rows of min­i­mal­is­tic rooms in a long, nar­row struc­tured tent, they take turns us­ing the shared bath­room or sep­a­rate bath house, or they may sit on the porch as the air is still cool. Tents range from Sam Ram­sey’s – chair of the Salem Board of Trustees and owner of Ram­sey’s fur­ni­ture – small, green one built in 1840 with no in­di­vid­ual roofs or doors for each room and saw­dust shav­ings cov­er­ing the dirt floor to re­cently built, two-story homes with cen­tral air-con­di­tion­ing.

Oth­ers wake from one of the 22 rooms in the Salem Ho­tel or from their per­sonal RVs.

A 5k kicks off the day be­fore youth ser­vices.

Rev. Jonathan An­der­sen, an as­so­ciate pas­tor at Hamil­ton Mill United Methodist Church in Dac­ula, Ge­or­gia, leads the youth ser­vices and ac­tiv­i­ties with Rev. Andrew Cov­ing­ton, the lead pas­tor at Con­nex­ion Church in Cov­ing­ton.

An­der­sen, in his 26th Camp­meet­ing, said he grew up com­ing to Salem as a kid.

“Now I’m leading. The people who were leading me as a kid, they’re still all here,” An­der­sen said.

“You watch kids grow up here.”

Fam­i­lies travel from all over Ge­or­gia for the week at Salem, and many even come from sur­round­ing states. Kids who don’t go to school to­gether but who are as close as if they saw each other ev­ery day re­unite once a year.

“Salem is like a spir­i­tual home­com­ing,” An­der­sen said. “This is the one place that’s con­stant in an ever-chang­ing world.”

Youth classes Mon­day-Fri­day are in­cen­tivized by rib­bons, green for per­fect at­ten­dance and gold for great at­ten­dance. At least a gold rib­bon three years in a row is re­warded with a Bi­ble.

12:30 p.m. Lunch. Ten­ters of all ages ro­tate be­tween eat­ing at the Ram­sey Pavil­ion to find­ing shade on a tent’s porch to cool­ing off at the nat­u­ral spring, the his­tor­i­cal rea­son ten­ters stayed in the area.

“Ev­ery­thing slows down,” An­der­sen said. “You sit on front porches and talk for hours. When you’re ready to move on, I’ll go to the next porch.”

A group of teenagers have been com­ing with their fam­i­lies their en­tire lives. Anna Cather­ine, 14, Mag­gie Doster, 14, Sara Cather­ine, 16, Grace Tay­lor, 15, and Sam Doster, 16, said while they used to think of Salem as a re­quired fam­ily event, they want to go now and look for­ward to it all year.

“It brings you back down to Earth,” Anna said.

She said the clos­ing cer­e­mony is her fa­vorite, al­though a lit­tle bit­ter­sweet.

They said some people may think Salem Camp Meet­ing is like an exclusive sum­mer camp, but Anna said any­one who wants should come and see what goes on.

From porch dis­cus­sions to fam­ily cab­ins to spir­i­tual con­nect­ed­ness, they will al­ready be look­ing for­ward to next year’s meet­ing.

Salem camp­meet­ing at­ten­dees spend the days not only honor­ing their faith, but also spend­ing qual­ity time with fam­ily and friends. Many gather ev­ery year, and pass their tents down through the gen­er­a­tions, en­sur­ing the faith and fel­low­ship continues an­nu­ally.

Bryan Fazio/The Cov­ing­ton News

Mag­gie Li Win­kle builds a “sand cas­tle” while (left to right) Zachary Har­ri­son and Brooks Thorpe help out.

Clock­wise from top right: Kait­lyn Hamp­ton and McKen­zie Daniel get some as­sis­tance spin­ning around merry-go-round at the Salem Camp Meet­ing camp­ground Satur­day; Sam Ram­sey poses for pic­ture along­side Jerry Marett who do­nated piz­zas for the youth group at Salem camp­ground Satur­day; Brook­lynne Hol­comb sits in the lap of Mark Mabrey; Four gen­er­a­tions of campers stand in front of the tent first in­hab­ited by Jen­nie El­liott Jenk­ins’ fam­ily in the midto-late 1800’s. Jenk­ins’ grand­daugh­ter, Anne Mil­ton, stands in front of the cabin with her daugh­ter, grand­daugh­ter and great grand­son. Pic­tured are Mil­ton, Laura Moore, Tammy “Michelle” Har­ri­son and Zachary Har­ri­son; This is the old­est stand­ing struc­ture on the property dat­ing back to the early 1800s; Jamie Fairchild opens a gift dur­ing her baby shower held at the Ram­sey Pavil­ion on the Salem Camp Meet­ing grounds Satur­day; Nolan Roberts, Rus­sell Frazer and Thomas El­liott pass the time by pass­ing the foot­ball on this sum­mer af­ter­noon. “This is one of the great­est trips each year my fam­ily and I make this is sort of a va­ca­tion,” said Roberts.

Dar­rell Everidge and Bryan Fazio /The Cov­ing­ton News

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