Naysayers complain of dying camp meetings and other negative perspectives. Had D.S. Warner visited last week’s 117th WARNER MEMORIAL FAMILY CAMP, he would have found camp meeting alive and well!
Joseph Fisher came into the area in late 1882. In June 1883 Fisher, Daniel S. Warner, and S. Michels hosted the first area Church of God camp meeting. It was a non-spectacular event, typical camp meeting of the time, but it proved pivotal in Church of God history. For 12 years--1884-1896--Warner published Gospel Trumpet literature from Grand Junction. His publishing ministry became established and in 1892, Michels, Joseph Smith--father of FG--and committee purchased the farm on Lester Lake that today hosts WARNER MEMORIAL CONFERENCE AND RETREAT CENTER.
Camp Meeting is alive and well at Grand Junction. It is neither the oldest, biggest, nor greatest, and not strictly “camp meeting” in early vernacular. Few people present this year had a broader view than mine; I attended first in 1927 or 1928 as best I know--infant in arms (you count the years).
The Church of God (Anderson) exists within the camp meeting tradition. Few camp meetings reflect the original perspectives of Warner’s “reformers” better than WARNER FAMILY CAMP. In some respects, Warner Camp continues to lead the way. Now a year round conference and retreat center, it heavily emphasizes youth and family camping. “Camp Meeting” today is best described as WARNER FAMILY CAMP. Following are some random observations from this year.
1. “Family Centered”
Planned for the family; scheduling is somewhat “laid back.” Drive-in’s come, but do not find the schedule “packed” for their appearance. Campers and families do find time for swimming, camping, visiting, “coffeeing,” reading, or just walking around.
2. Environmentally sensitive.
I enjoy people-watching. I loved watching the preschoolers! They did all the things they do--watched by all yet (sometimes) seemingly watched by no one--freely and safely. Adolescents, youth, young adults, tottering seniors pursue appropriate activities. As an active participant, I found it profoundly moving--hugely refreshing. All the while, we were supported by an exceptionally fine CORE STAFF of college youth (representing AU, Hope College, and elsewhere), serving under Doc Stevens’ (our Resident Director) “servant” banner.
3. Broad Participation
Seeing friends old and new is expansive. I spoke with Robert Malzon--among others. Robert came from Russia. Robert’s wife came from East Poland. They met in Fritzlar, Germany and came stateside--mid-50’s. They have attended WMC “every” year since! We had a lot of seniors doing all the things seniors do, but every age had abundant activities--inside and out, including the youngest--truly “family” camp!
Evenings we gathered at the old Tabernacle for inspirational singing, moving testimonies, and stirring sermons. Dr. Jeannette Flynn may be Director of a National Agency, but she revealed a down-home Ohio farm girl. Her infectious laughter and exemplary vulnerability peeled off that “Anderson veneer,” as she dared to reference some of the hot button issues between our “Chog traditions” and “what the bible teaches”. “Historic” Warner Camp is not tradition bound, but we do honor Scripture.
More than a sacred place for a Civil Rights farm, Koinonia is a New Testament Greek word describing a special kind of fellowship--in short supply today. I found koinonia last week, in the openness, the acceptance, the inclusiveness of a diverse body of believers--true integrity. We didn’t all have the same skin color. Obviously, we did not all belong to the same generation. We came from diverse perspectives, but we were ONE IN THE BODY OF CHRIST--Anglo-Afro-Hispanic-European-Americans. WMC often lacks sufficient “color,” but I was especially impressed by the increasing number of “ethnic” children in our midst. We do have diversity, as well as ...
Camp opened with a marvelous concert by Tim Zimmerman’s “King’s Brass.” This Trans-denominational group brought a class act of 9 professional musicians that travel a broad denominational spectrum. Guests included Wycliff literacy missionaries from Papua, New Guinea. Evangelist Flynn drove in from Church of God Ministries--Anderson, IN. WMC campers believe deeply in a United Church for a Divided World and practice being more than Christians Broadcasting Hope; they practice the intentional denominational diversity that D. S. Warner sought when he stepped outside of denominationalism to worship with “the whole family of God.”
Unity and diversity are not always one and the same. The Church of God is struggling with its diversity! There are deep differences as we attempt to live out the Scriptures, but we remain far more than a loose association of clones and carboned copies. While we struggle to balance our tradition of autonomy, congregational rule, et al, we recognize the social obligations members of the BODY OF CHRIST owe to one another.
Words feel flat and lackluster when describing the vitality I saw last week, but it offers more hope for a positive future for the Church of God than I have seen in recent years. This is Wayne at
Walking With Warner