July 14, 2012 8:45:13 PM
Since 1828, the faithful have gathered at Tabernacle Campground near Ethelsville, Ala., for an annual retreat of worship, fellowship and play. This summer is no exception. The 2012 Camp Meeting opens with a kick-off dinner Saturday, July 21, at 6 p.m., followed by a service at 7:30 p.m. in the open-air Brush Arbor built on "the hill of the Lord," behind Tabernacle United Methodist Church.
All denominations are invited to any of three daily services in the arbor July 22-27, at 10:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Columbus native Jim Lavender is one of the visiting pastors for the week. Dr. Lavender is founder and senior pastor of Discovery United Methodist Church in Richmond, Va. Steve Casteel will also conduct services. David Prevost will serve as music director.
On Saturday, July 28, at 7 p.m., a single service will be held, featuring Johnny McCrary and his horse ministry. The 2012 Camp Meeting concludes Sunday, July 29, with a 10:30 a.m. service.
Come on out
"Everyone in the community is invited to join in a potluck lunch Thursday, July 26, at noon," urged Judy Clark, a co-coordinator of the week-long gathering. "Come and fellowship with us, and don't forget to bring your favorite potluck dish."
A homemade ice cream social follows the evening service later that day.
A highlight for many who return from near and far for the camp meeting each summer is living in "tents" -- rustic cabins -- often passed down from generation to generation. Clark expects about 14 people in her family's "tent," which was built by her father in the mid-1960s.
Generations of children have grown up going to the camp meeting. Activities throughout the week keep them engaged and on the move.
"We have the Campground Olympics, with games the kids really look forward to," said Clark. "Little bitty ones can participate, too, and parents and grandparents love to watch." One of the main events is always the mighty tug of war, complete with requisite mud.
A new development this summer is a renovated youth "tent," where visiting youth without a family cabin can spend the night, accompanied by counselors.
Lauri Sansing is vice-chair of the Camp Meeting.
"We welcome anybody to come out and enjoy this week with us. It's just an awesome experience to be out in a quiet setting in nature, different from your traditional church setting. It's a wonderful place to really develop your relationship with God."
For directions, go to tabernaclecampground.com. For additional information, contact Sansing at 662-240-0044 or Tabernacle Church at 205-681-2812.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.