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Salem Camp Meeting continues on with 195-year Tradition
Salem 1
An average of 200-plus people gathered for the 195th annual Salem Camp Meeting held from July 14-21. - photo by Phillip B. Hubbard

COVINGTON, Ga. — Amid the sweltering heat and the beating sun, hundreds of people attended the 195th annual Salem Camp Meeting. This year’s services ran from Friday, July 14 to Friday, July 21 at Salem Campground. 

For each service, people gathered under the tabernacle with sawdust shaving floors and pews throughout the covered service area. 

This event has taken place every year since 1828 except during the Civil War and is considered one of the South’s oldest camp meetings. It is located at 3940 Salem Road in Covington. 

Roland Vaughn, the board of directors’ chairman, shared his thoughts on the camp meeting’s near two centuries long success. 

“It’s tradition,” Vaughn said. “It’s the need to have a spiritual time in a beautiful place on a great campus. It’s an opportunity to see each other at least once a year.” 

Of all the events Salem Campground hosts throughout the year, Vaughn stressed the week-long camp meeting is the biggest. 

Each service is open to all denominations of believers since it is a non-denominational church. 

Rev. Dr. Byron Thomas  and Rev. Dr. Leslie Holmes alternated preaching each day’s 11 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. services. Included throughout were youth and adult activities as well as a 9:30 a.m. classes for all ages. 

On Saturday, July 15, there was a guided walking tour of Salem, tour of tents and the wide world of sports award ceremony. Following the evening service on Wednesday, July 19, the annual talent show was held. 

Hosting such an event takes a team effort, too. 

Thomas Roberts served as the music director and platform leader — a post he’s held since 1989. Alice Walker and Becky Ramsey were the duo-pianists with youth directors Shannon Tidwell and Josh Reaves also playing pivotal roles. 

These contributors are in addition to the 34-member board of directors with four emeritus members.  

A lot has changed with the campground and the camp meeting across the years. But the tradition Vaughn alluded to has remained constant. 

That is why Vaughn believes the camp meeting continues on. 

Of all the people who attend, though, seeing the kids riding their bikes, sitting in the services and being a part of the storied tradition is one of his biggest joys. 

Having a vast group of children in attendance gives Vaughn hope that the future looks bright for Salem Camp Meeting. 

“That’s the future of the campground,” Vaughn said. “That’s the growth engine right there. What we try to do is make sure we cater to children to what they enjoy and what they like. So they’ll come back year after year.”