The conical roof of the 124-year-old Mount Gretna Tabernacle needs replacing, a project with a price tag of at least $50,000.

“Everything seemed to be fine this year, and suddenly we had several leaks and puddles,” said Ted Martin, president of the Mount Gretna Tabernacle Association, which started a fundraising campaign in late November to cover the cost. “This was unexpected.”

The fundraising effort got a significant boost on Monday, Dec. 11, when West Cornwall Township supervisors approved providing $25,000 of ARPA funds to the Tabernacle Association. 

Read More: West Cornwall Township supervisors adopt 2024 budget with no tax increase

One of the oldest structures in the Mount Gretna Campmeeting, the tabernacle was the worship center of the multi-day camp meeting of religious services that started in 1892 and drew thousands of people eager for spiritual growth and renewal, according to newspaper accounts from that time. 

Read More: Mount Gretna Tabernacle: ‘Ingenious’ structure was raised in just 10 weeks

While Mount Gretna no longer hosts annual campmeetings, the tabernacle remains a community centerpiece with events from June through September.

The Mount Gretna Bible Festival, for instance, offers weekly programs of choral, handbell and instrumental music along with religious speakers. The Campmeeting Association sponsors the Heritage Festival featuring local bluegrass, country and classic rock bands. And Mount Gretna Summer Concerts stages its cabaret-style performances in the tabernacle.

Because the tabernacle is open-sided — a reflection of its religious roots — concerts are pay-what-you-want or free-will offerings. 

Similarly, support for the preservation and maintenance of the tabernacle is primarily by donations or gifts. Recently, renovations and overdue improvements to the historical structure have made a dent in that fund, Martin said. 

Those improvements included reinforcing the foundation of the tabernacle stage, overhauling the “tension ring system” located within the roof to ensure overall stability of the building and strengthening the 23 original chestnut posts holding the roof up.

A grant from Lebanon County Commissioners helped underwrite some of this work. 

“One has to admire the architecture, durability and sturdiness of the Campmeeting Tabernacle that has hosted countless gatherings of worshippers and concert goers throughout almost 125 years,” said Susan Hostetter, chairperson of the Mount Gretna Area Historical Society.

“It’s very existence should remind us and future generations of the roots of the campmeeting and realize the need to know the structure’s history and the need for its preservation.”

Managed by the Mount Gretna Tabernacle Association and owned by the Mount Gretna Campmeeting Association, the tabernacle is part of Mount Gretna Campmeeting’s listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Donations can be sent to P.O. Box 428, Mount Gretna, PA 17064.

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