AU Holds Camp Meeting for Students
By Carl Stagner
On a crisp Thursday evening in April, camp meeting returned to the grounds where Warner Auditorium once stood. It wasn’t the North American Convention of the Church of God, but there were students from all over the country. The marquees along State Route 9 in Anderson didn’t say, “Welcome, Church of God,” but Church of God congregations from far beyond Anderson were represented. The calendar did not display holidays such as Flag Day and Father’s Day, but there were tents and vendors. Anderson University had reenacted a Church of God camp meeting for students, and it was an experience that left participants with anticipation for the upcoming Global Gathering.
As a product of Anderson University’s initiative to connect Church of God students over the past year, the AU Camp Meeting brought together students who shared stories about their camp meeting experiences, both at Anderson and in state and district meetings. Julie Short, senior admissions counselor at AU, recalls the journey from inception to reality.
“Last spring, I gathered a group of Church of God students in my office for a brainstorming session. We were trying to think of fun and creative ways to engage our Church of God student population. As we reflected on our experience in the Church of God, camp meeting (whether state or national) always had a special place in our hearts. We realized that many of the students attending AU had never experienced camp meeting before, so why not host a ‘mock’ camp meeting? This would allow students to learn more about their Church of God heritage, and it would provide another opportunity for us to get together again as a group.”
The camp meeting atmosphere was perfect that night, though for many, the lack of humidity and warm weather put a new spin on camp meeting in Indiana. Complimentary elephant ears and lemon shakeups from one of those iconic food trucks were provided for all students who had registered. The event planners set the stage for nostalgia with old wooden seating, as well as one of those new green park benches. Several tents put the finishing touches on the scene. After a time of casual fellowship around the campfire, the worship service began. Passersby along Fifth Street heard old-time singing, coming from young voices, proclaiming “I am a child of God!” and “We reach our hands in fellowship to every blood-washed one.” Kerry Robinson, pastor of East Side Church of God in Anderson, shared stories of how camp meeting and heritage have shaped his life and ministry. A candlelighting service, though too breezy to actually light the candles, closed the camp meeting as students and staff joined together, singing, “I live, I live, because He is risen!” In spite of the cold, the warm hearts gathered together made it a beautiful evening.
During the fall semester, President Edwards and his wife hosted seventy-five Church of God students in their home for Pizza with the President. More events designed especially with Church of God students in mind are expected in the 2013–2014 school year.