'A joy to be here': 185th annual Marietta Campmeeting begins

·3 min read

Jul. 16—MARIETTA — The 185th annual gathering of the Marietta Campmeeting kicked off over the weekend.

A crowd gathered under an arbor for a morning of worship as the shade from the canopy of trees weakened the July heat. The calm yet bellowing sound of the hymn "Because the Perishing" filled the air Saturday morning, as members of the community gathered for this year's Marietta Campmeeting.

Assembling at the Marietta Campground on Roswell Road, the nondenominational Christian rally offers a wide variety of activities for attendees of all ages, including weeklong worship gatherings happening daily, specific classes for children, and the opportunity to hear from different pastors from Cobb County and beyond.

The Marietta Campmeeting held its first meeting in 1837. Isaac and Samuel Sewell, along with Wisdom Gober and William Mayes, purchased this 40-acre parcel of land for $40 and held the first official meeting under an arbor they constructed on the land out of brush.

Times have changed since the first meeting 185 years ago, but every year, those involved still do all of their worship and community building under the cover of an arbor, the same way the founders did.

Each year, the descendants of those who organized the very first camp meeting stay in the cabins built by their ancestors and help host this week-long event of worship and community gathering.

The nine-day event hosts two worship sessions daily, one at 11 a.m. and the other at 7:30 p.m. They also have a special area for kids called "children's church," which takes place from 9 a.m. to noon in a relocated schoolhouse on the compound.

"Anyone is invited to come sit down and enjoy," says Peter Vien, president of the Tentholders Association. "It's just a great place to enjoy each other, bond, and relax."

The Tentholders Association is made up of the descended families of the original Marietta Campmeeting. The "tents" described are the cabins around the compound, each with the names of the Cobb County pioneers who built them.

Speakers at the event include Dr. Ike Reighard, pastor at Piedmont Church; Dr. Johnny Foster, senior pastor at East Cobb Baptist Church; and Dr. Gerald Harris, former pastor at Eastside Baptist Church.

"I think it's a joy to be here," Harris told the Journal on Saturday. "I'm very thankful that this has continued for nearly 200 years."

Following his days at the church, Harris worked for the Christian Index as an editor for 16 years. After retiring in 2018, Harris started traveling around Georgia, preaching for whoever needed a message.

"I love the atmosphere of revivals and camp meetings," said Harris. "I think it's an opportunity for people to get excited about their faith again."

All of the activities and worship events put on by the Marietta Campmeeting are open to the public. Harris is hopeful that the yearly gathering will catch the eyes and ears of those passing by Roswell Road throughout the week.

"People driving by may not stop, but they'll notice something is going on," said Harris. "They may inquire about it and realize that there are some very devoted people here."