Next week is the first week of June, ordinarily one of the most popular weeks to schedule Church of God state and regional camp meetings. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2020 camp meeting season will look unlike any other in the history of the denomination.
State and regional administrative bishops have had to make difficult decisions of whether or not to postpone, revise or cancel camp meeting for the summer of 2020. According to correspondence received in the general overseer’s office, as of May 26, of the 57 states and/or regions, which includes Canada and the U.S. Hispanic regions, all but 17 had reported cancelling their originally-scheduled camp meeting for 2020. Of the 57, 13 were scheduled to begin their camp meetings next week. Ten of the states/regions had not yet reported their intentions, while those that have cancelled are still considering options going forward.
The initial decisions have come amidst laws and orders differing in every state concerning re-opening in the midst of the ongoing pandemic. However, the bottom line has been the safety of constituents who would have had to travel to camp meeting destinations, not to mention the potential limitations of travel and housing options.
Among those that have not cancelled, five have postponed until September or October: Midlands, North Carolina Eastern, North Carolina Western, South Carolina and South Central Hispanic. Ohio is planning to conduct virtual meetings June 7-10, while Tennessee has scheduled regional meetings at various locations during June 22-26. Others are still considering possible options for later this summer or fall. Some states are combining their annual fall minister’s meeting with an expanded event yet to be determined based upon the continued evolution of the pandemic.
“Adapting to the challenges of the pandemic has maximized creativity in California and Nevada,” said Sean O’Neal, administrative bishop for those states. “We are adjusting by transforming camp meeting to go where people are virtually and or live by hosting five services in five locations in two weeks between July 17-26.”
Gary Lewis, administrative bishop for South Georgia reported they are offering three camp meeting experiences. He said, “June 1-7 – dates of our original camp meeting – will be Camp Meeting Rewind, a look back at services streamed from the past. July 20-24 (original dates of the general assembly) we are doing camp meeting across South Georgia with General Overseer Tim Hill. We will stream and be at a different region each night. October 19-20 will be our fall camp meeting/ministers meeting on the campground in Tifton. It may look different this year but I’m confident the impact will still resonate.”
Members of the Church of God Executive Committee have traditionally set aside the camp meeting period for traveling to at least a dozen states each to speak and represent the International Offices, sometimes three or four locations per week. Extremely limited travel options would have reduced the Committee’s ability to reach their destinations during the originally-scheduled dates.
“Camp Meeting has always been bigger than the event itself,” stated General Overseer Tim Hill. “It is a heart thing. We love one another and the unity and bond of peace we abide in won’t be broken by social distancing. We will indeed be joined together by calling, vision and purpose.”
“Church of God people love the worship and fellowship that comes with camp meeting,” Hill concluded. “This year will be a lot different, but I am encouraged by the many innovative ways we have discovered to stay connected during this trying period. We have all been blessed and strengthened and learned that our God is bigger than anything that may come our way.”
To learn the plans for individual camp meetings, please visit churchofgod.org and click on the DIRECTORY option to find websites to state/regional offices.
—Cameron Fisher, Church of God Communications