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August 27, 2016 by William H. Scarle,  Jr.  813-835-0129

Ocean Grove, An Island of Christian Civilization

Ocean Grove is only a ten minute drive from the small Jersey Shore town of Belmar where my daughter, Grace, has been Pastor of the Calvary Baptist Church for over twenty years.  At the end of each summer when the tourists thin out and the weather turns cooler and the ocean breezes are sweet and refreshing I try to spend a few weeks with Grace and husband Michael.

The Grove is one mile square Christian camp ground with a beach front founded by a group of Methodist ministers in 1869.  For almost 150 years the Grove has provided a place of spiritual renewal for those seeking a time away from the regular routines of living to study the Word of God with the people of God in the beauty God has created.

Grace is very much involved in the music program of the Grove.  Sunday evening the Ocean Grove Choir of over a hundred voices is presenting Mendelssohn’s Elijah.  It will by directed by Dr. Jason Tramm and accompanied by a full orchestra with Gordon Turk at the organ.  The Ocean Grove organ is one of the largest organs in the nation.  Grace will be singing soprano with a host of others.

In addition to an extensive music program the Grove offers seminars in biblical and faith related topics.  I picked the time to visit so that I could attend the seminar with Dr. James Fleming who has lived in Israel and participated in many archaeological excavations.  His subject for the week is an examination of the miracle stories of the Bible with special reference to their environmental background and theological significance.  This morning we looked at the miracles of Genesis and Exodus.

Christian civilization is a concept that is slowly slipping away from Western culture.  It is not gone.  We in the United States still print “In God we trust” on our money.  We still take the oath of political office with a hand on the Bible.  Our churches are still the best attended within what is usually seen as the Western nations. However, this is not saying much.  Secularism is a creeping virus in what used to be a biblically oriented culture.  Politics rather than principals are shaping the structures of society.

We forget that liberty in politics was an outgrowth of Christianity.  It did take some time.  It preserved some abuses longer than it should have.  But eventually the biblical world view prevailed.  The atheists did not establish our first universities, organize our first hospitals, build our first orphanages, or start our first rescue missions.  The pioneers of modern science were almost all Christians.  Isaac Newton wrote more about the prophecy of Daniel than he did about physics.   But we seem to have very selective memories when it comes to science.

Some of our greatest music and art came from the churches.  Some of it still comes from the churches, but it has a way of staying within the community of believers and not reaching out into the culture in general.

Ocean Grove seems to me to be stepping into a better world where the good, the true, and the beautiful are lifted up as the gifts of God to be enjoyed.  At least for the next couple of weeks I will be enjoying them.

(Bill Scarle can be contacted at END-whs