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Salem Campmeeting not being held in person for first time since Civil War
Salem Campground

COVINGTON, Ga. — Salem Campmeeting, established in 1828 and considered one of the country’s oldest continuously running camp meetings, will not hold its annual spiritual revival scheduled for July 10 through July 17 in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It marks only the second time in Salem Campmeeting’s 192-history that the annual summer meetings have not been held. It’s the first instance since the Civil War that Christians from across the state have not gathered for the event.

While the historic campground will not be filled with people the week of July 10, Salem’s Board of Directors are currently working on plans to worship and fellowship by other means.

“This was an incredibly difficult decision to make,” said Sam Ramsey of Covington, Chairman of the Salem Board of Directors. Ramsey has attended every meeting since his birth in the 1930s.

“But, in light of the overall need for the stately and well-being of our multigenerational participation’s and the safety of our neighbors in the Salem community where we meet each year, we felt it was the right decision to make,” he added.

The non-denominational campmeeting, located in Newton County between Conyers and Covington, brings Christians together from across the state and country for a week of faith, fellowship, family and spiritual renewal.

Dozens of families gather for the week in simple cabins, referred to as ‘tents,’ surrounding an open-air tabernacle built in 1854. The tabernacle serves as the site of worship services three times a day. Hundreds more from the area attend the services and daily Bible studies, as well as youth activities held throughout the week.

This summer, the ‘tenters’ will not formally gather and the usual schedule of services, Bible classes and other activities will not be held at the campground.

“Aside from other church gatherings and perhaps meetings of our state legislature, there’s not an older tradition in Georgia than Salem that has been impacted by this pandemic,” said Roland Vaughn of Conyers, vice chairman of the Salem Board of Directors. “Missing this time of fellowship and revival is going to leave a hole in our summer and a  hole in our hearts, but we are planning for alternative services and activities that will continue our mission of spreading the gospel and preserving this historic tradition.”

The Salem Board of Directors is surveying its attendees and supporters to determine what kind of online services and in-person activities it will hold to approximate the ‘campmeeting experience’ during this unprecedented situation.

“I wouldn’t call this a cancellation of campmeeting,” Ramsey said. “We’re not meeting in person and it’s going to look a lot different, but we will still gather. Our ancestors who started this tradition could have never imagined what we can do today with technology, and thankfully that technology will help us gather for fellowship and worship in some form this year.”

The campmeeting tradition has its roots in the spiritual revival of he early 1800s. In its earliest form, they were gatherings of farm families during the ‘laying by’ time between the planting of crops and harvest time — usually August.

Arriving in wagons laden with a week’s supply of food and erecting temporary tents, the families would socialize and attend up to four worship services daily.

Salem Campmeeting is on the National Historic Register and features an open-air tabernacle with sawdust floor, a hotel and a row of cabins, including some that date to the mid-1800s.

For additional information, contact Sam Ramsey or Roland Vaughn. Ramsey can be arched at 770-786-4916 or beckyramsey.organist@gmail.com. Vaughn can be reached at 770-922-4547 or rolandvaughn@bellsouth.net