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Adventists question shortened camp session.

Byline: Karen Nugent

LANCASTER - They appear every June and July in a field off Main Street in South Lancaster - hundreds of canvas tents filled with sleeping bags, hot plates, camp stoves and Bibles.

But the annual Seventh-day Adventist camp meeting, a 140-year-old tradition that stretches for nine days, will be cut to one day this year.

Frank Tochterman, president of the Lancaster-based New England Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, said the annual spiritual retreat, which attracts thousands, will take place this year on July 19.

He attributed the change mainly to finances. But he said another factor in the decision was that the nine-day New England meeting would have overlapped with this year's General Conference (World) meeting at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, which will take place from June 23 through July 3.

Mr. Tochterman, who coordinates the camp meetings, said three other one-day, ethnic-oriented, camp meetings for Spanish, Portuguese, and Haitian church members are scheduled for July 12, 17 and 24. Those meetings, also cut to one day, were added two years ago to cut down on crowds at the larger meeting, and were held on weekends following the nine-day English meeting.

Camp meetings started in South Lancaster, the home of a large number of Adventists, in 1869, and are considered reunions for the many who attend from all over the country.

Some church members started a Facebook page titled: "Restore SNEC Camp Meeting 2010 and Beyond."

On it, the nine-day event is described as "an uplifting and worshipful experience. It is a time for Family. It is a time for friends. It is fun. It is a time to spend with God."

John C. Schumacher-Hardy, a member of the Adventist Village Church in Lancaster, questioned the explanation given by Mr. Tochterman.

"If money is so tight, why did the leadership spend so much money on remodeling and expanding their ivory palaces last year?" he said.

Mr. Schumacher-Hardy contends that the conference put a new cement floor in the main pavilion of the meeting grounds, bought expensive new benches and garage doors, and revamped audio-video equipment in the pavilion.

"Why was so much sacred money spent only to soon thereafter radically reduce the essential event down to a paltry day for each ethic group?" he said.

He said camp meetings have never been cut, not even during the Great Depression.

As for the conflict with the General Conference meeting, Mr. Schumacher-Hardy said, the camp meeting could have been moved up a week or two, which has been done in the past.
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Feb 26, 2010
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