Salem Camp Meeting
Bradd Shore, Ph.D., Goodrich C. White Professor, Anthropology, Emory University
The healing power of Salem Camp Meeting, attended by hundreds of families in rural Georgia since 1828, is captured in a documentary produced by the MARIAL Center. "Family Revival," based on research by MARIAL Center Director Bradd Shore, tells the story of two working mothers who spend a week every summer at Salem, where they embrace the gentler rhythms of a time gone by.
For the past 175 years, dozens of Southern families have gathered each summer at a rustic campground forty miles east of Atlanta. Salem Camp Meeting is a weeklong retreat that is part family reunion, part religious revival. It has a profound effect on the families who attend.
"Family Revival" explores the history of Salem Camp Meeting and its role in family culture, memory, myth and ritual.
Those who attend camp meeting told Shore that the annual gathering is "like ground zero of our lives." It offers them a chance to go back in time and live a simpler life free of television, radio, air conditioning, and even the telephone, if they are so inclined. The daily schedule of activities, which center around Bible readings, worship services and just sitting around, has not changed since 1828. "There is no multitasking here," Shore said.
Family and spiritual ties are fused and the ambience has a powerful effect on families because "it is an attempt to restore a mythic image of past family life," Shore said. Several generations gather under one roof and reminisce about past Salem camp meetings and family members who have passed. The spare cabins, with floors covered in wood chips, also function as a kind of museum, holding photographs and mementos of patriarchs and matriarchs who were among the first to attend Salem camp meeting.
Salem is a magical place that comes alive one week a year. "Family Revival" opens the door to outsiders.
Salem (part 1) First part of documentary about Salem Camp Meeting in rural Georgia Play >
Salem (part 2) Second part of documentary about Salem Camp Meeting in rural Georgia Play >