When Pat Cavanaugh asked me to write a column about Salem Camp Meeting, I should have said that it would be easier to write a book than a column about this place which means so much to me.
Salem Camp Meeting this year begins on Friday night, July 12, at 7:45 p.m., and continue through Friday, July 19. This will be the 185th time that this week of meetings has been held, starting back in 1828. I have had the privilege to attend 74 of these annual events, never missing a year so far in my life.
My great-great grandfather George Cunningham, was one of the founders of the Salem Camp Meeting. He served on the first grand jury in Newton County, and his son George Cunningham Jr., was the first child born in the then newly-incorporated county.
The Cunningham-Ramsey tent (cabin) at Salem Camp Ground was built in 1840, of hand-hewn timbers. Our original family dining table has been used by each successive generation, and we still use it today.
The Gospel of Christ has been presented from the Salem pulpit by America’s great preachers of the Methodist, Baptist and Presbyterian churches. This year, on Sunday, July 14, at 10:45 a.m., Bishop Mike Watson, bishop of the United Methodist Church North Georgia Conference, chairman of the Committee on Evangelism of the World Methodist Council, and president of World Methodist Evangelism, will be preaching from the historic Salem pulpit. Every bishop in the history of the North Georgia Conference has preached at Salem Camp Meeting, and Bishop Watson will continue this longstanding tradition.
Sometimes people ask me why I am so committed to supporting and promoting Salem Camp Meeting. The reason is that I have seen so many good things come from the meetings.
For example, in the last 25 years, 17 young people have dedicated their lives to full-time Christian service as pastors of churches and career missionaries as a result of attending Salem Camp Meeting. The lives of countless people have been changed at the Salem tabernacle altar, and generations of people have been inspired to greater service in the spreading of the Gospel of Christ throughout the world.
My father C.D. Ramsey Jr., was program chairman of the Salem Board of Trustees for many years, and I have followed him in that position, serving since 1964. I have benefited personally from getting to know more than 100 of the finest preachers in the world, as they have come to preach at Salem Camp Meeting.
This year will be no exception, as Dr. Bill Bouknight, who served the Christ United Methodist Church in Memphis, Tenn., comes to preach. While he was a pastor, more than 4,000 new members joined the church, with one third of them coming by their profession of faith in Jesus Christ. Also preaching will be the Rev. John Dees, pastor of the Cross Point Baptist Church of Madison, Ala., and father of the Rev. Jason Dees, who served First Baptist Church of Covington for more than five years.
Mr. Thomas Roberts will serve as song leader this year, leading great singing. Alice Walker and Becky Ramsey will play grand pianos for the 43rd year and will make available to the public their new CD, entitled "Standing on Holy Ground." All proceeds from the sale of the CDs will support Salem Camp Meeting.
In addition, as I write about Salem, I realize that I have forgotten to mention one of my greatest Salem blessings: I met my wife Becky, at Salem Camp Meeting. She grew up in Atlanta and had never heard of Salem. However, when she and her family attended a service at Salem, she loved it.
We met that same night, and she has been an enthusiastic Salem supporter ever since.
Becky introduced her whole family to Salem, and they regularly attend Salem each year. She loves Salem as much as I do.
For more Salem information, please visit salemcampmeeting.org.
See you at Salem! Everyone is invited. Today’s world needs the Gospel of Christ more than ever before. Please come to worship, and you will find the "Sweet, Sweet Spirit" at Salem Camp Meeting.