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Hollow Rock not on-site experience for this year

This file photo from 2018 shows some of the cottages at Hollow Rock Campmeeting at 1958 county Road 51, Toronto. For the first time in its more than 200-year history, there won’t be an on-site 10-day retreat in July because of precautions in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. There will be, however, a virtual meeting July 20-25 with live-streaming videos featuring various speakers.

TORONTO — For the first time in its more than 200-year history, there won’t be an on-site Hollow Rock Campmeeting as faithful attendees through the years have come to look forward to and experience.

Instead, there will be a virtual alternative from July 20-25 with live streaming videos from evangelists and other guests for adults, youth and children.

The decision to not hold the on-the-premises inter-denominational holiness 2020 campmeeting at 1958 county Road 51, Toronto, comes in the midst of precautionary measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 — a topic the Hollow Rock board had on its radar from the get-go.

“We first approached the topic in early March,” noted Kurt Landerholm, chairman of the board of Hollow Rock Campmeeting, in a recent phone conversation from his home in Mentor, Ohio. Landerholm has served as chairman for about a year but has been a part of the 14-member board for roughly 17 years.

April and beyond brought continued monitoring, conversations and a survey that would ultimately lead to the board’s phone conference meeting decision to not hold the in-person spiritual retreat. The news was communicated through its Facebook page and website and through e-mails and a direct mailing to newsletter recipients approaching the 2,000 mark.

Hollow Rock is a 10-day campmeeting featuring special services, music, Bible studies, activities and fellowship, attracting hundreds of visitors from around the country and locally each year during July. What is believed to be the country’s oldest interdenominational holiness campmeeting unfolds on a more than 20-acre site in Saline Township where there are 100 cottages, a wooden frame tabernacle built in 1900, a youth tabernacle, a children’s tabernacle, cafeteria, gift shop, nurse’s station, museum, playground, laundry facility, caretaker’s house, prayer house and camping area.

“The board is deeply grateful for the faithful prayer support you have offered during this difficult time of discerning. We seek God’s wisdom and direction with all decisions and certainly this decision regarding the 203rd camp,” noted Landerholm and Stuart Smith, camp president, in comments on the cancellation on Hollow Rock’s Facebook page.

“This decision, though hard, also was made clear with prayer, while seeking the guidance of government guidelines, other holiness camps, those who give leadership to the ministries of the camp, leaders of the different camp services and you. We know that this news will come as a great disappointment to most of us as it is hard imagining a summer without Hollow Rock. However, we also know that there are many traditions and events we cherish during these 10 days that would have to be changed if camp were to go on. While those 10 days will look different this year, what remains is the mission of the camp and our call to Christian unity,” they continue in the post.

“One of the many deciding points is the reality that people come to the camp from all over, multiple states and then live in really close contact for 10 days,” explained Landerholm in the phone conversation.

“People were disappointed but anticipated and appreciated the board making the difficult decision. The support has been very positive,” said Landerholm, who started attending Hollow Rock in 1982. “I married into the Hollow Rock family, and my wife, Nancy, has attended all her life.”

Landerholm believes the campmeeting has always happened, even during the Spanish influenza of 1918.

“It’s always referred to as the longest continuous camp so we kind of believe there’s never been a year it didn’t meet,” Landerholm said, noting questions have been raised as to the possibility of it not being held that year, but research has produced no evidence of that.

So this year’s Hollow Rock is a virtual version, featuring various speakers and presentations.

The July 20-25 schedule promises “… live streaming videos from our evangelists, Steve Schellin and John Juneman; special guest, Leanna Roe; missionary, Laura Lea Sims; for youth with Pastor Jon; and the children with Miss Steph and Miss Wendy,” the Facebook message notes.

“We are saying Hollow Rock on site is canceled, but on line it’s happening,” Landerholm said.

The online version of Hollow Rock has its merit in that it potentially can reach a broader audience who might not otherwise attend, but it’s not a substitute for the real thing, according to Landerholm.

“Hollow Rock is not unlike the local church that has had to go into this new model of ministry, which has afforded the opportunity for people to experience worship and not attend,” he said. “And I would add that it is not a substitute for meeting together, and we truly will miss being together in fellowship.”

Asked what message he would like to get across to readers, Landerholm responded, “It’s good to stress that this is Hollow Rock 2020, but our 2020 vision is Hollow Rock will be back on location in 2021 and subsequent years, and we’re strong and healthy,” he said.

The Facebook announcement notes, “The fellowship we share and look forward to will leave a void, but in these times, we seek unity and the love for one another that displays our position in Christ. We are already planning for and looking forward to seeing each other’s faces during camp 2021 on July 15-25.”

The camp, whose covenant is to proclaim “Holiness Unto the Lord,” is owned by the Hollow Rock Holiness Camp Association. For information, visit www.hollowrock.org or its Facebook page.

With its roots in the early 19th-century Wesleyan tradition, Hollow Rock claims to be the longest-running interdenominational camp meeting in the United States.

Prior to 1818, it is believed Methodist Bishop Francis Asbury, sent by John Wesley to the American frontier, spent time preaching in the area.

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