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Salem Camp meeting enters its 184th year

Sam Ramsey stands next to the new Salem Campground sign.

Sam Ramsey stands next to the new Salem Campground sign.

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Staff Photo: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith Wayne Hicks, the caretaker of the Salem Campground, former Covington Mayor Sam Ramsey, Shaun McCurry and his father Ricky McCurry, employees of the Salem Campground, stand in front of the new sign they just hung at 3040 Salem Road, advertising the upcoming 184th annual interdenominational Salem Camp Meeting which runs from July 6-13 and is open to the public. For more information, visit www.salemcampmeeting.org.

Andrew Jackson was sworn in as the seventh president of the U.S. and the first edition of Noah Webster's Dictionary was published the same year one of the oldest existing and still thriving camp meetings debuted in Covington. The Salem Camp Meeting was founded in 1828, and celebrates its 184th anniversary this year with a full schedule of music, preaching and fellowship July 6 to 13.

Families return year after year to enjoy the nostalgic time of worship under the historic tabernacle on the grounds of Salem United Methodist Church at 3940 Salem Road in Covington. For 100 years, Salem was a Methodist institution, although it was never officially part of the church.

Now it is interdenominational and features a Methodist preacher each year along with either a Baptist or Presbyterian preacher on alternating years.

This year Dr. Winston O.R. Worrell, director of the World Methodist Evangelism Institute and Dr. John A. Huffman Jr., retired from the Los Ranchos Presbytery, will be the featured preachers this year with Thomas Roberts leading the music and identical twin sisters Alice Walker and Becky Ramsey as duo pianists.

Worrell is an evangelist, lecturer, administrator, pastor and preacher in national, international, multicultural, multi-ethnic and multilingual settings worldwide. He has served as director of the World Methodist Evangelism Institute, a ministry of the World Methodist Council and Emory University for 19 years.

Worrell holds a doctorate in evangelism from Emory University in Atlanta and a master's degree in media communications from Georgia State University. He has served as a clergy member of the North Georgia Conference, as well as in the United Methodist Church throughout the U.S. and is a former pastor and superintendent minister of the Methodist Church in the Caribbean and the Americas.

He has served in ministries in 54 countries and has preached to crowds of more than 20,000. The pastor and his family are natives of Barbados.

Huffman, who retired from local church ministry after 47 years and was elected pastor emeritus by his 3,000-plus member congregation at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, in Newport Beach, Calif., is now a minister-at-large. He is the chaplain of the doctorate of ministry program at Fuller Theological Seminary; is a preacher-in-residence at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and continues his work in denominational and other para-church ministries.

Huffman holds a bachelor's degree in history from Wheaton College; special graduate studies at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University; a master of divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary; a master's in American history from the University of Tulsa and a doctorate of ministry from Princeton Theological Seminary. His post-doctoral studies have included a semester in residence at Harvard University and a semester as a visiting scholar in residence at Princeton Theological Seminary and Princeton University. He is also the recipient of several honorary doctorates.

He is married to Dr. Anne Ridgeway Mortenson, a graduate of UCLA, Fullerton Seminary and the Newport Psychoanalytic Institute. They have three daughters.

Roberts, who has been camp meeting music director and platform leader since 1989, served as full-time director of music in United Methodist and Presbyterian churches from 1966-1992. He and his wife, Susan served as directors of the Chancel Choir at Christ Church United Methodist in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., until 2007.

Walker and Ramsey are Atlanta natives and both hold bachelor's degrees from Agnes Scott College. They have earned two certifications from the American Guild of Organists and have been playing duets together since the age of five. They have been pianists at Salem Campground since 1971.

Walker is the organist and director of the senior adult choir at Covington First Presbyterian Church. Ramsey is organist and director of music for senior adults at Covington First United Methodist Church, as well as serving as organist for Oxford College. Walker is married to Ken Walker, who is retired from WSB-TV, and Ramsey is married to Sam Ramsey, president of Ramsey Furniture Co. and the former mayor of Covington.

Special music will highlight the entire week, including the "Big Sunday" worship service at 10:45 a.m. July 8 when the First UMC of Covington and Salem UMC choirs will sing "The Majesty and Glory of Your Name" and "America." They will be accompanied by the Covington/Conyers Brass Ensemble, flutes, clarinet, percussion and pianos under the direction of Nathan Autry, director of music at First UMC Covington.

The week of Salem Camp Meeting begins with supper at the Salem Hotel Friday, July 6 at 6 p.m. Worship services will be held daily at 10:45 a.m. and 7:45 p.m. Reservations for meals at the Salem Hotel may be made by calling 770-786-6841.

For a full schedule of daily activities and events, visit the website www.salemcampmeeting.org.

Beth Sexton is a freelance writer based in Snellville. If you have a story idea, email Karen Rohr, features editor, at karen.rohr@rockdalecitizen.com.