Worship, fellowship and spiritual renewal will again bring families and friends together at one of the oldest existing camp meetings in the nation this summer.
The 185th Salem Camp Meeting will be held July 12-19 with a daily schedule of events for the entire family, and services scheduled for 10:45 a.m. and 7:45 p.m. each day. The campground is adjacent to Salem United Methodist Church at 3940 Salem Road, Covington.
Ministers for the historic meeting this year include Bishop Mike Watson, the Rev. William Bouknight and the Rev. John Dees. All three are scheduled to speak at services throughout the meeting.
Sam Ramsey, chairman of the Salem Camp Ground board of trustees, said all are invited.
“We’ve had 17 people in the last 20 years go into full-time Christian service because of the Salem Camp Ground meeting, and not many churches can say that,” Ramsey said. “We try to get the very best.”
The Salem Camp Meeting was founded in 1828. The camp meeting concept originated in Kentucky in 1800 and is a distinctly American contribution to the history of Protestantism, according to information from Salem Camp Meeting. The Salem meeting has been held every year since its founding except during the Civil War.
Camp Meeting speakers
Bishop Mike Watson, born into an active United Methodist family in Dothan, Ala., was ordained as a deacon by Bishop W. Kenneth Goodson in 1972, and in 1976 he was ordained an elder by Bishop Carl J. Sanders in the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference.
He has served as pastor of churches in Molino and Milton, Fla., and was founding pastor of Covenant United Methodist Church in Dothan.
He currently is serving as the Episcopal leader of the North Georgia Area of The United Methodist Church, with more than 359,000 members, 900 congregations, and 1,400 clergy.
Watson and his wife Margaret have two children, Ben Watson and Elizabeth Watson Riddle; and four grandchildren, Alex and Andrew Watson, and Camilla and Watson Riddle.
The Rev. William Bouknight, reared in Methodist parsonages all over South Carolina, served five churches in South Carolina from 1966-1994, including 12 years as senior minister of Trenholm Road United Methodist Church in Columbia.
In 1994, he was appointed senior minister of Christ United Methodist Church in Memphis, Tenn., where he served for 13 years and saw more than 4,000 new members join the church.
In June 2007, Bouknight retired after 41 years in full time, ordained ministry, and moved back home to Columbia, S.C.
He has written several books; the latest is “Five Beliefs Worth Dying For,” published in 2010 by Bristol House.
Bouknight and his wife Gloria Bouknight have been married for 42 years. They have two sons, Brad and Aaron.
The Rev. John Dees has been senior pastor of Cross Pointe Church in Madison, Ala., since August 2002. He has pastored churches for more than 20 years, serving at two Huntsville churches and one church in Farmville, Ala.
Dees earned a master’s in religious education from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and early in his career worked as the North Alabama director for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
He serves as chaplain of the Bob Jones High School football team.
Dees and his wife Nancy have two adult children, Kelli and Jason, and one granddaughter. Their son, Jason Dees, recently pastored the First Baptist Church of Covington, but now serves as pastor of Valleydale Baptist Church of Birmingham, Ala.
Variety of activities
The camp meeting also will feature music by Salem Camp Ground music director Thomas R. Roberts, and duo pianists Alice Walker and Becky Ramsey.
Some families who attend the camp meeting annually stay for the week and participate in a variety of activities.
The Camp Ground has camper hook-ups and a hotel with private baths, a nostalgic wraparound porch with rocking chairs, and home-style cooking.
Ramsey said rooms may be booked up, but people can still register for meals by calling 770-786-6841.
Meals cost: $6.75 for adults and $4.75 for children for breakfast; and $10 for adults and $7 for children for lunch and/or dinner.
More information about the Salem Camp Meeting and the daily schedule of events can be found at salemcampmeeting.org.