LEADERTIMES WEEKEND RELIGION ARTICLE FOR
August 30, 2014 by William H. Scarle, Jr. 813-835-0129
OceanGrove is a Camp Meeting ground along the New Jersey coast which wasestablished in 1869 and is still faithful to its founding purpose. It was established by a group of Methodists comprised of 13 ministersand 13 laymen as a spiritual refuge for renewal and recreation. Itcomprises about a square mile with a half mile beach front.
Iam writing this piece from my daughter’s home in Belmar, New Jerseywhich is only a ten minute drive from Ocean Grove. We spent thefirst few days of our time together attending Bible study andbiblical history lectures by James Fleming, a biblical scholar andfrequent visitor to Israel. Jim uses power point photographs toillustrate his teaching and provides up to date archeologicalinsights for his audience.
Lastevening I attended a sacred concert of George Fredrick Handel’s“MESSIAH” presented by the Ocean Grove Auditorium choir andorchestra. My daughter sings with the choir which numbers over onehundred voices.
Aword of explanation concerning the great auditorium may be ofinterest to my readers. It was first constructed for use by the campmeeting in 1870. The last reconstruction was in 1894 when a 10,000seat auditorium was built in 92 days at a cost of $69,612.16. Sincethen the seats have been replaced with theater style seating whichreduced the seating capacity to 6,500. At the presentation of“MESSIAH” the downstairs was almost filled to capacity.
OceanGrove is a Christian Cultural Center where some of the nation’sgreatest preachers and musicians have performed and continue toperform. Speakers at the auditorium have included every New JerseyGovernor since George T. Wertz. Lowell Thomas, Admiral Richard Bird,Helen Keller, William Jennings Bryan, Booker T. Washington, BaronessVon Trapp and so many others have visited and addressed audiences atOcean Grove.
Ilearned from my daughter only this morning that Fanny Crosby not onlylived at Ocean Grove but wrote most of her beloved hymns here at thecamp ground. Not only did Fanny Crosby compose her sacred verse atthe grove, but the composer of the music that fit the songs so well,Philip P. Bliss, also resided at the Grove at least during thesummers.
Ina world that is drifting away from the Christian faith and themagnificent culture in the arts that that faith has nurtured OceanGrove has been an island of sanity and spirituality. The grove hashosted secular artists in the belief that all that is good is fromGod. Philip Sousa has played there as well as the New JerseySymphony and the New Jersey State Opera.
Ispent almost twenty-five years ministering in New Jersey. I cannotremember ever spending any time at Ocean Grove. Now my daughterlives and ministers only ten minutes away. She is Pastor of theCalvary Baptist Church of Belmar. This visit has allowed me todiscover this island of sanctity and sanity along the Jersey Shore.
Ifyou are ever in the vicinity of the Jersey Shore do not make mymistake. Take some time to discover the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting,145 years old this year and still faithful to its mission ofproviding a place for spiritual growth and relaxation.
(BillScarle can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org). END-whs