Camp Dates for 2017: July 20 - 30: Services: 10:30am, 2:30pm, 7:30pm; Sunday evening: 6:00pm
Holiness at Hollow Rock
But that changes for 10 days each summer as the 22-acre camp with more than 100 cottages, three tabernacles, seven dorms and plenty of space for trailers and tents awakens as America’s oldest interdenominational holiness camp begins anew.
By JANICE R. KIASKI, staff writer
This article originally appeared in the Herald Star Online: http://www.hsconnect.com/news/articles.asp?articleID=4785
This year will be no different as faithful participants of all ages gather for the 188th-annual camp meeting that begins Thursday and continues through July 30, featuring music, ministry, fellowship and spiritual nourishment.
Annual participants from as far away as California, South Carolina, Florida and Kentucky but also from throughout the Ohio Valley begin arriving this week to air out and prepare their quaint no-frills cottages for temporary residency, bringing to life a community of Christians who come to nurture their souls through prayer meetings, services and renewed friendships.
“I tell you it’s a place where lives are shaped for the future,” says Dave Barnhouse of Richmond, a member of the board of the Hollow Rock Holiness Association that owns the camp.
In the weeks preceding the start of another camp meeting, Barnhouse and Errett Allison of Chester, also a board member, and caretaker Philip Carney talked about Hollow Rock in a most fitting place: The history room on the grounds, an environment where pictures, articles and memorabilia are testimony to the camp’s roots dating back to 1838.
The first camp meeting was believed to have been held then by the Rev. J. M. Bray, who was a pastor of the Sugar Grove Methodist Episcopal Church, although it was the site, accounts concur, where Methodists held district meetings for as many as 50 years prior to that.
Allison explained the grounds originally were owned by the Taylor family. “It was a farm and they leased it to the Methodist church. Originally from 1815, Methodists had an annual meeting here and it was Methodist until 1875 and then it went interdenominational. That’s when the association took over and actually bought the land,” said Allison, who was all of 6 in 1936 when he started attending Hollow Rock with his parents and siblings.
“We had a farm so Sunday was usually our day to come to Hollow Rock. We’d get up in the morning and get everything ready. My mom would pack a lunch and we would come out and spend the day here and then get back in time to do our chores at night at home,” Allison said in the midst of the history room where photos showed camp-goers there in horse-and-buggy days as well as when automobiles first became the new mode of transportation.
Generational involvement in the camp is a common thread among the three as well as for the hundreds of others who flock to the grounds where the traditional camp meeting was in early history the venue through which circuit riders and missionaries spread the Gospel.
During its 10 days of services and such, Hollow Rock will attract as many as 400 residents who stay in the cottages, but then there are those who camp in trailers or find lodging on the grounds in modestly priced rooms, some of which are more primitive than others. Residents from throughout the valley, meanwhile, might drive back and forth day to day so service attendance in the main tabernacle can swell to 800 during week days if not 1,000 on the two Sundays.
“I can remember when the tabernacle was packed and the porches all around it and people would be sitting on porches and in chairs,” Allison recalled the visual memory as a child.
Barnhouse, who like Allison has a cottage on the grounds, first came to the camp in 1952 with his father, the late Russell Barnhouse. “My dad was converted to Christ and he wanted to have his soul fed,” Barnhouse said, remembering how the firebrick road that runs through a part of the grounds in between the cottages is a yellow brick road of sorts.
“It’s where everyone meanders up after service to get their hot dog or ice cream or whatever. It’s sort of a thoroughfare where they walk through,” Barnhouse said.
Carney, who came on board as caretaker in May, explained his mother, Phyllis Carney, started coming to Hollow Rock in 1931. “As kids we were brought out here and we stayed in a dorm that’s now been torn down, the old Cooper dorm at the upper end of camp,” said Carney, who will be participating in his 52nd camp meeting when it unfolds later this week.
“The camp is where I set my spiritual roots. The teaching at this camp gives you a solid foundation to base your life on. It’s like a spiritual retreat, a renewal and great family time,” Carney said of the family oriented camp. “You get a family that bought a cabin and it’ll be passed generation to generation and they just keep coming back,” he added.
Although the grounds offer limited activities for younger people — a basketball court and a volleyball court — the camp attracts as many as 150 teens from ages 12-18.
The youth involvement is important, according to the trio, with emphasis on their participation at youth and children’s tabernacles and their own activities during the day.
The youth represent the next generation to carry on Hollow Rock in the future, according to the trio.
“Their course for life is set here and it’s a good course,” Barnhouse said.
Carney said the campgrounds offer a setting where there aren’t many distractions. There’s no Internet access, for instance, and for those who have cell phones, getting a signal isn’t likely.
But that’s part of its charm, too.
“You’ve got so much in life now that’s tearing down the family, you know, busy, busy, busy, and this is a place where you just get away from that,” Carney said, while Barnhouse nodded his head in agreement and said, “That’s right, that’s right,” like a churchgoer audibly agreeing with a preacher’s sermon thoughts.
Keeping some of the past is done on purpose like nickel ice cream day, a nostalgic practice initiated at the little grocery store on the grounds when the 175th anniversary was observed.
A bell on the grounds is rung before services to call people into the tabernacles and rings daily at 1:15 p.m. to initiate three minutes of silent prayer campwide. It also is rung at 10:30 p.m. daily, a signal for the day’s end and lights out.
“There’s nothing here to distract you from building relationships with your friends, your family and God,” Carney said, explaining the camp equips participants with the tools to handle anything in life in its promotion of “holiness unto the Lord.”
“You have not just a here-and-now view but you’re looking toward eternity, and it changes people’s lives for eternity,” he said.
People come to Hollow Rock for different reasons, according to Carney. “Some of it’s family tradition, some of it’s to get fed. Some of it’s evangelistic. They’ll bring a friend to see their life changed. Everyone has a different reason for being here but you know it’s just one of those things you kind of base your year on, before or after Hollow Rock. It’s like, yeah, I bought that car three months before Hollow Rock. Some people will think of it like New Year’s Day. Here you get in the before or after Hollow Rock mode,” Carney said.
In explaining Hollow Rock’s longevity, Allison said “It’s just because the truth has been preached and taught here. The singing is wonderful and people come and get attracted to it.” Good leadership helps it thrive as well, according to Barnhouse.
“We have had men and women dedicate their lives to keeping this place going and creating the funds, whatever it takes to keep this going.”
Even though the 188th camp is just on the verge of beginning, the planning through 2010, such as the roster of national speakers, already is complete.
Barnhouse said some people are afraid of Hollow Rock.
“There’s no reason to be. They think it’s a cult up in the valley. Well that’s nonsense,” said Barnhouse. “It’s just good solid church bodies (of all denominations) up and down the valley gather here to be nourished and have their souls taken care of and to get that straight and live right. That’s all,” he insists.
“It’s been doing its job for a long time and I’m proud to be a part of it,” he added, encouraging newcomers to experience Hollow Rock. “It’ll help you and bless your heart. This place has the answers. Just simple Bible scriptural lessons that will help them and get them straight and get them to heaven in the end,” Barnhouse said.