My first real memory of camp meeting in Oregon was through the service window of the Snack Shack. I was an awkward kid from the Midwest who had no idea what camp meeting was all about. But if you were at Gladstone in 1995, there’s a good chance I handed your Pronto Pups and Shamburgers to you through the window. I didn’t know much. Yet even through that tiny window into the camp meeting world, I could see the connection, the camaraderie, the joy that came from Gladstone Camp Meeting.
To be honest, I’ve had an up-and-down relationship with camp meeting over the years. As a pastor, I’ve felt the palpable exhaustion of Camp Pitch. As a worshipper, I’ve experienced the exhilaration of worshipping in full voice with hundreds of other believers. As an introvert, my senses have been overwhelmed by the pressing crowds. As a worship planner, I’ve been inspired to see hundreds of people moved to encounter the Spirit of God. But no matter my experience, one thing has always remained clear: camp meeting has an incredible power to bring God’s people together, not just physically, but in spirit.
That spirit of camp meeting, of togetherness, is needed now more than ever. This year has threatened to divide society (and church) like none in recent memory. We’ve been divided about gender, race, politics. We’ve been divided about masks and social distancing. These divisions risk tearing — permanently damaging — the fabric of the communities in which we live.
That’s why we need camp meeting. Camp meeting brings us together around the one thing we all have in common: Our devotion to Jesus.
Yes, camp meeting looks different this year. There won’t be hundreds of people milling about on the Plaza in the summer heat. There won’t be the sounds of the kids’ programs echoing through the trees at Gladstone. But there will be camp meeting.
Camp meeting will happen at Partner Sites across the Oregon Conference where people can gather for fellowship meals and inspiring worship together. Camp meeting will happen when Pathfinders are selling Pronto Pups and Shamburgers at the drive-thru SnackShack. Camp meeting will happen when kids and teens can meet Jesus through programs designed just for them, in their homes or at a partner site. Camp meeting will happen when we rally together in spirit to celebrate the one person who matters most: Jesus.
Camp meeting won’t be at Gladstone this year. But it will be in the Oregon Conference. I hope you’ll set aside time to experience camp meeting this summer. I hope you’ll join me in embracing the spirit of camp meeting.
Find partner sites near you by visiting www.oregonadventist.org/gladstone-camp-meetings (list will be updated in the coming weeks) or by downloading the app (watch for app details in mid-late June.)