We welcome people of all denominations who wish to join with us to worship God as we celebrate our 150th annual camp meeting. The community-wide camp meeting is held under an open-air arbor (tabernacle) featuring old-fashioned church services for 7 nights.
The Salem campground is just north of Benton, Arkansas and a few miles southwest of Little Rock Arkansas. We no longer camp out for a week or two in tents or cabins, and we only have one service in the evening instead of three or four meetings throughout the day, but we still enjoy worshipping God and celebrating the tradition and memories of camp meeting.
The KELLEYS are a family trio. Ron and Paula Kelley are husband and wife and Valarie Kelley is Ron’s younger sister. The Kelley’s have enjoyed singing gospel music the majority of their lives. Ron and Paula have sung as a duet in their ministry for 37 years while Valarie has traveled doing solo work for many years. Over the years, when they would be together at the church their father was pastoring, they would enjoy singing together. Two years ago they made the decision to join their hearts and voices together and formed the family trio using the family name, The KELLEYS. Their mission statement is: Bring Hope Through Song and the Spoken Word. They proudly proclaim they are Three Voices with One Vision.
Greg Schick sings, plays guitar and keyboard, and gets the young people involved in his fun and sometimes funny routines and music. This will be his fourth year to share his musical ministry with us. Greg is Pastor of Contemporary Service at Saint James UMC in Little Rock.
Oaklawn UMC Praise Choir led by camp meeting pianist Kathleen Dockery, this group from Hot Springs enjoys singing a mix of old time gospel and some more modern songs.
The Salem UMC Praise Team sings worship and praise songs, led by Laura Cross who plays keyboard. Her husband Randy plays bass, and Steve Davis plays guitar.
Freda Carter and Charles Young sing old hymns as duets and solos with piano and sometimes accordion. The audience is welcome to sing along.
At 7:30 PM each night we all join in singing the old hymns! Lynn Hoggard serves as song leader, accompanied by pianist Kathleen Dockery. Anyone who wants is welcome to come join the choir. We especially encourage young people to join the choir. Even if you do not know all the songs, come join us and be surrounded by some exuberant singing.
Lynn Hoggard of Benton is a retired band director and has been performing since he began singing solos in church as a 3-year-old. He comes from a large musical family. He taught band, vocal music and music education in public schools in Missouri, Kansas and Arkansas, including Bryant and Bauxite. He sang professionally with the Four Jacks Quartet and has performed with a number of bands through the years.
For several years, Hoggard has played stand-up bass for Royal Players productions at the Royal Theatre in Benton. He currently sings with the Ouachita State University faculty quartet. Hoggard is a graduate of England High School and Arkansas State Teachers College (now University of Central Arkansas), where he earned a Bachelor of Music Education degree. He holds a Master of Music Education degree from Wichita State University. Hoggard is married to the former Carolyn Couch. They have two sons and one grandchild.
Kathleen Dockery serves as praise team director and pianist for contemporary and traditional worship services at Oaklawn United Methodist Church in Hot Springs. She has been driving from Hot Springs to play the piano at Salem Camp meeting for several years. Anyone who hears and sees her playing that old time gospel style piano can tell that she enjoys what she is doing. Judging by the smiles on the faces of the audience, her enthusiasm and enjoyment must be contagious.
Dockery has been involved in gospel singing conventions for at least 50 years as the pianist and / or an officer. She is the secretary treasurer for the Arkansas River Valley Gospel Singing Convention in Atkins, Arkansas; former president of the Garland County Gospel Singing Convention in Hot Springs; the Arkansas State Gospel Singing Convention; and the Arkansas-Oklahoma Gospel Singing Convention. These conventions carry on the tradition of hosting gospel music concerts an entire weekend including Friday night, all day Saturday, and usually Saturday night. You can see a Gospel Singing Convention Schedule that includes Arkansas events here.
He has preached / taught workshops in Missouri, Kentucky, Kansas, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas, Tennessee, and Arkansas. He and his wife, Celeste, have written full-length plays published by Lillenas Drama (Nazerene Publishing House): Mysteries With a Message, Volumes I and II; and Meet Me at Luigi's. They are also the proud parents of Sam, a creative writing graduate of the University of Arkansas, and Joe, a music graduate of Asbury University. See this web page for more details. Also see TomLetchworth.com.
Perhaps you have some memories of Rev. Letchworth during his pastorate at Salem UMC, camp meeting memories, stories, comments, or pictures. If so, please share them with us on our Facebook page. Sadly, during the 2018 camp meeting we learned that Rev. Letchworth had passed away.
The open arbor (tabernacle) where camp meetings are held is a tangible and functional reminder of the days when people actually camped for a couple of weeks in the fall after the crops were harvested. Although the arbor is owned by the Salem United Methodist Church, and the evangelist is a Methodist, we hope that all Christians will feel welcome to come to camp meeting and worship God as a community the way our forefathers did. We still need and desire to experience God's forgiveness and life-changing power.
Volunteers set up the piano and sound system every evening prior to the service and tear it all down afterwards -- it cannot be left under the open arbor. Special thanks to Mike Green for providing an excellent sound system for camp meeting. Most of the singing groups use Mike's system since it is more than adequate for their needs. Volunteers also work prior to camp meeting making plans and arrangements for the next upcoming meeting, fixing up the arbor, and praying for God's blessings on the camp meeting and everyone who attends.
The camp meetings are organized and run by the Salem Camp Meeting Association. Anyone who wishes to attend the annual meeting is considered a member. The association elects a board which meets several times a year to conduct camp meeting business. The camp meeting association pays all expenses of the camp meeting. Thanks to everyone who has contributed their talent, time, and efforts to the annual camp meetings, and a special thanks to those who have generously contributed to improvements such as the concrete floor, seat cushions, improved lighting, additional ceiling fans, and some nice church pews donated by the Vilonia, UMC.