GREENFIELD — Marcus Dodrill earned a degree there. Rose Lynn met her husband, John. Dozens of others have knelt and prayed prayers that, years later, they still point to it as a pivotal life moment.
It’s easy to drive right by the large, simple building and navigate the next bend in Fortville Pike. It and most of the smaller structures nearby are set back from the road.
But those who’ve stepped deeper in from the roadside can tell you a lot has happened here.
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It’s camp season for the International Conservative Holiness Association, the unassuming headquarters of which rests in the 4400 block of North Fortville Pike.
A youth camp is set for June 27 to July 1, and a kids’ camp runs from July 19 to 21, but the season kicks off each year in the first full week of June, with Family Camp, also called camp meeting.
It’s a date circled on the calendar for many in the association’s churches.
Dodrill said in his decades as a pastor, “It was a highlight of our church year.” He remembers churches closing on the Sunday of camp meeting, with a sign on the door explaining the congregation was worshiping together at camp. He’s seen the crowd inside the Christian Family Center, the large tabernacle, swell beyond 1,000 on a weekend.
The crowd on the opening evening of this year’s camp meeting, the association’s 31st, was not at that swelling point yet. But it was spirited.
The singing was hearty. As the congregation sang, “wave the banner, shout His praises” in the hymn “A Glorious Church,” an older couple marched up an aisle together toward the back. He flicked a handkerchief in the air along with the music; she waved her hand. Another man felt so energized, he ran a lap around a couple of sections of seats.
Hands were raised in praise and surrender. Here and there amid the sea of arms were Bibles and hymnals raised to the sky, jabbed in the air as an exclamation point to the words being sung.
There was similar fervor during prayers, with many in the congregation shouting “amen!” or offering their own prayers aloud from their seats, their voices joining together.
During the sermon, the choruses of called-out encouragement picked up from time to time, occasionally accompanied by a worshiper who leaped from his seat, pointing toward the speaker in agreement.
Two hours from its start, the service ended. Some adjourned to a snack bar across from the tabernacle for hot dogs, hamburgers, french fries or caffeine-free, diet Coke. Children played volleyball in the fast-fading daylight. Others lingered in the tabernacle.
One of them was Lynn. She has been coming to camp meeting for as long as she can remember. Her parents brought her as a child. At 15, she and John met. Years later, they began dating. Now, six years into their marriage, they come with their three children in tow.
“It’s just an exciting time to get together with friends and family — and the services, of course,” she said. “There’s nothing like being in the Lord’s presence in the services with people who are of like faith with you.”
Dodrill’s ties to the site stretch back even further. He was a student at the former Covenant Foundation College, which began in the Knightstown area and moved to the Fortville Pike site in 1973. He said the college closed in the late 1980s; the holiness association, of which he is vice chairman, bought the site. Earlier camp meetings took place in a tent before the tabernacle was built about 10 years ago, he said.
The site no longer sends out graduates with degrees, but people back home after camp meeting spiritually renewed, Dodrill said.
“I hope they have greater desire to be more productive as citizens,” he said. In this week of congregating and confessing, “there’s an experience of peace and joy that we feel. … We believe it shows in every area of your life,” he said.