Summers in Georgia are not only a time of stifling heat, cooling thunderstorms, and the lulling drone of katydids, but for many families, they’re also a time for that cornerstone of tradition – the campmeeting.
This week, families at Smyrna Presbyterian come together once again for the 184th campmeeting from June 24 -30 at the Smyrna Campground and Presbyterian Church.
Part family reunion, part revival, young and old come back year after year to stay in rustic cabins stuffed to the gills with relatives, visit with old friends and family, and replenish their spiritual life with services at the open air Tabernacle at the center of the 30-acre grounds.
“It’s tradition. It’s history,” said Susan Wofford, who has attended campmeeting as far as back as she can remember and whose family the Georges have had a cabin on the grounds for generations. “Being here, it’s like you stepped off from the rest of the world. You forget about the bad stuff in the world.”
“It’s my favorite week of the year,” she said.
This year’s campmeeting features guest preachers Alexander Brown of Golden Isles Presbyterian at St. Simon’s Island, who will lead the worship service from Friday to Sunday, Pastor Jason Dees of First Baptist Church at Covington, who will lead the evening services Monday to Thursday, and Pastor Dr. Jim Martin of First Baptist of Lithonia, who will lead the morning Bible study Monday to Thursday.
Lanier Gable, retired minister of music at Sunset Hills Baptist in Douglasville, will serve as song leader, and Betty Sharpe returns as the campmeeting pianist. Lisa McQueen will lead the evening children’s Bible study, Tracee Wood will lead the morning children’s Bible Study, and Lauren Riggs will lead the medium-high morning Bible study. Josh Sweeney, youth director and contemporary worship leader for Crossroads United Methodist, will lead the senior high morning Bible study.
Also continuing this year is the second annual Family Bike Ride and Walk on Saturday at 11 a.m., where families decorate their bicycles for a parade around the campgrounds.
Evening services are held every day at the Tabernacle at 7:30 p.m., Sunday morning service is at 10:30 a.m. Adult and children/youth Bible study is held at 11 a.m. every morning. Food is prepared by Ray Allen of Pippen’s BBQ at the food hall for $4 for lunch, served at 12:15 p.m., and $6 for dinner, served at 6 p.m.
Smyrna Presbyterian’s campmeeting may be the oldest and only surviving Presbyterian campmeeting, said Wofford. The church started in 1827 and the Tabernacle was built in 1891. The campgrounds were sold to the church by the Atlanta Presbytery in the 1960s.