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Posted: July 10, 2012 8:06 p.m.

Timeless Salem campmeeting experience

Sunday night, my husband and I ate dinner at the Salem Hotel and attended evening services at the tabernacle at Salem Campmeeting. We were guests of Sam Ramsey, the biggest and best cheerleader for Salem Campmeeting.

We weren't his only guests. I believe his guests filled at least two-thirds of the dining room at the hotel. It was wonderful to see everyone there and my husband remarked that he was glad to see many of his classmates. Two of my former students complimented me on their time in my classes. I appreciate their kindness. I like to think I taught them well.

The fellowship was great and the conversations allowed everyone to catch up on the busy lives of others. So was the food. We didn't have the world-famous fried chicken, but what we did have was just as good. We had roast beef and gravy, rice, a bevy of vegetables and home-baked rolls.

After the dinner, Sam invited everyone to visit the Ramsey tent, built in the 1840s. I believe he said he was the fifth generation in his family to use that tent. (You know the tents aren't really tents, but wooden buildings that once had wood shavings on the floor. Now most just use the shavings on the front porches.) We rambled down to the Cowan tent to visit Suzanne and her brother Walter. Suzanne was also one of my students and is a friend, although we see her infrequently. She also was my babysitter when my children were young. She is always cheerful, industrious and generous. My children attended campmeeting and stayed at the Cowan tent when they did. Suzanne hasn't changed. This year, she said there were eight children staying at the Cowan tent.

After the visit, we went to the tabernacle. It was surprisingly cool with the high open ceilings and plenty of fans, of both the electric and hand variety. The music of Alice Walker and Becky Ramsey was as wonderful as always. Where else can you hear a concert from world-class musicians for free? Thomas Roberts led the singing and made sure that most of the hymns we sang were so familiar that we didn't need hymn books.

The message was given by Dr. John Huffman. He asked us to recognize and accept the fact that we are fallible and, with that in mind, to turn our backs to the past. He suggested we decide on goals that are compatible with Christian doctrine and go for broke trying to meet those goals.

That is not bad advice for anyone. Stewing over the past will not change it or the future. At my age, I wonder about long-term goals. I have lots of little short-term ones, usually dealing with my abilities to accomplish tasks I once did with ease. Right now I am praying for the ability to survive and ignore this heat wave with some sort of grace and without too much grumbling.

I know that's trivial. I do have more serious ones concerning my family. I hope to be an inspiration for my children and grandchildren and hope that they will realize the importance of their striving to meet long-term goals. God helps those who help themselves.

Before the start of the service, Sam asked everyone in the tabernacle to invite someone to visit Salem Campmeeting.

We had not been ourselves in several years. We used to come yearly as my mother-in-law loved to come and we would bring her. But it was just like we had been there yesterday. The experience is timeless. The only difference I saw was the use of golf carts to help some get around.

If you have never been to Salem or if you have not visited in a while, you need to go. Don't let the heat keep you away. It was cool in the hotel and on its porches and in the tabernacle. After the evening service, the hotel has cold water and popsicles for everyone. The music is wonderful and the sermons uplifting. The services are ecumenical. Everyone is welcome. You can dress comfortably.


Paula Travis is a retired teacher from the Newton County School System. She can be reached at ptravis@covnews.com.

 

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