In a small grove of trees north of Lebanon stands an open-air wooden auditorium with a domed conical roof resting on 23 chestnut posts.

The tabernacle, built in 1904, is the centerpiece of Mount Lebanon Campmeeting, founded a decade earlier by a group of German-speaking Christians who sought a place in the woods for worship and fellowship.

Read More: A brief history of Campmeetings

This year, from July 9 to July 16, the Campmeeting will continue this tradition, hosting its 131st program for all wanting to grow in religious faith and connect with others.

“We want to introduce people to camp meeting and invite them to be part of our community and our fellowship,” said Lindsay Whayland, a third-generation member of Mount Lebanon. “Campmeeting week is a great way for people to experience the things we do and build relationships.”

Anyone can attend any or all of the events on any day or for the entire week.

The daily schedule features activities geared to elementary, junior high, and senior high youth, as well as Bible study for adults.

Crafts are planned for every afternoon. Nightly suppers provided by area churches can be purchased along with homemade soups, pies, and cookies for lunch. Capping each day are evening worship services led by area ministers with special music ranging from contemporary to traditional.

Wednesday, July 12, is youth-focused with family games in the afternoon, a dinner of kid favorites, and an informal evening service with “This Way Up,” a musical group spicing up songs with audience participation and unconventional percussion, said Sherri Miely, co-chair of the program committee.

“We planned these activities to be fun for kids,” Miely said. “We really want people to check out what Mount Lebanon Campmeeting is all about and what we have to offer.”

As it did in its early years, the camp meeting concludes its activities with Campmeeting Sunday, a full day of worship, food, and fellowship.

While the Campmeeting today has paved roads and a disc golf course, entering Mount Lebanon is like going back in time.

The tabernacle, designed by Lebanon-born John Cilley, still dominates the grove. Simple cottages of two or three rooms provide basic shelter. Hundred-year-old trees mute the sounds of traffic on nearby State Route 343 and open the senses to birds’ songs and insects’ hums.

That Mount Lebanon is celebrating its 131st year speaks to the power of outdoor religious gatherings to bridge the past and the present and connect people in Christian community.

“Campmeeting is something different than what many people have in their churches,” said David Shenk, a fourth-generation member of Mount Lebanon and Campmeeting historian. “Being in the woods is a way to get closer to God and proclaim the Gospel.”

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