South Georgia Hosts Camp Meeting on Burned Tabernacle Location

Tifton, Ga.–Less than two months after a fire completely destroyed the iconic South Georgia Church of God Tabernacle, thousands gathered on the site to celebrate what God has in store for the future.

On Sunday night, June 5, the first night of the South Georgia camp meeting was staged on the concrete footprint of the previous tabernacle that burned to the ground on April 21. An enormous tent was erected, more than 2,600 chairs placed and more brought lawn chairs to enjoy several activities harkening back to the days when many Church of God camp meetings were outdoors under a tent or open-air tabernacle.

Billed as an “Awaken Tent Revival Service under the T.L. Lowery Canvas Cathedral,” the special kickoff celebration on the 2022 camp meeting proclaimed the scripture from Haggai 2:9, “The glory of this latter house shall be greater than the former.” It featured vials of ashes from the tabernacle as souvenirs and opportunities to purchase bricks toward reconstruction of the facility.

General Overseer Tim Hill preaches under a packed tent on the site of the former South Georgia Tabernacle (click photo to enlarge)

The South Georgia tabernacle was built 50 years ago in 1972 under the leadership of Dr. Ray H. Hughes, who was state overseer before Georgia was divided into two sections. The building was unoccupied at the time of the April 21 fire and no one was injured. It was to be the site of “Junior Talent” that weekend with competition in several categories. When firefighters extinguished the blaze it was apparent the worship center that had hosted decades of camp meetings, youth camps and other events was a total loss.

Once official authorities finished their investigation of the scene, cleanup began immediately and plans for rebuilding were discussed. Volunteers from around the state spent weeks clearing ashes and debris and preparing the location for the June 5 final service on the former tabernacle’s foundation.

“We are here one last time, not to mourn, but to worship,” stated state overseer Gary Lewis who welcomed the crowd, many who had arrived hours earlier to take in the day. Lewis was the first to proclaim, “God’s not finished yet!” Lewis then called to the front the group of firefighters who battled the tabernacle blaze and thanked them for their efforts in saving the adjoining building the day of the fire. The men received a standing ovation and were presented a basket of goods from the state.

Lewis’s comments were followed by an opening worship set led by gospel recording artist Geron Davis and Kindred Souls, along with a South Georgia praise and worship team.

The service took place on Pentecost Sunday and special guest speaker was Church of God General Overseer Dr. Tim Hill, who coincidentally preached his first evening camp meeting message in the tabernacle in 1990 at the age of 30. After a few comments regarding his memories of the bygone facility, he launched into a powerful message about Pentecost.

“Pentecost has a sight, sound, and speech,” Hill explained. “I still believe in the initial evidence of the infilling of the Holy Spirit is tongues as the Spirit gives utterance,” he said as the audience shouted in approval. Hill went on to tell gripping examples proving the power of the Holy Spirit, followed by several invitations to receive the Holy Ghost.

Hill then called out leaders of South Georgia and other leaders who had travelled to the event to the stage for prayer for an “uncommon anointing.”

“Out of these ashes God is raising an uncommon anointing,” Hill said. “He is getting down to the very foundation of ministry in this region, raising up the walls of stability, even to the rooftop that will point people to the Lord Jesus Christ as a witness and testimony of what God is going to do…there is an unusual anointing on this state team…and there’s an unusual anointing here…watch it unfold and see what God’s about to do in this region.”

South Georgia Camp Meeting continues this week at the University of Georgia Tifton campus conference center.

–Cameron Fisher, Church of God Communications

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