Gene Kelly and Van Johnson played two weary hunters who came upon the mystical village of Brigadoon. As the story goes, the preacher in the town invoked God to protect the townspeople against the changes and the influences of the outside world. His prayers were answered and for one day every 100 years, Brigadoon magically appeared amidst the rolling hills of Scotland.
The rolling hills of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania holds its own Brigadoon. On 14.5 acres of land, 190 small white cabins sit empty, alone and boarded up but for one summer week each year. The Central Manor Camp Bible Conference first opened on Thursday evening, September 7, 1892 with 19 tents under the direction of a pastor, Dr. MacDannald. He wanted a place where for one week, “Fundamental truths of the word of God are faithfully proclaimed.” This is an area with the strong influence of Evangelical Christians and Mennonites, so the rules were very strict. No noise after 10:30, women wore dresses, no tobacco and no alcohol.
Over a hundred years later, there is a “tabernacle” seating 1,000 people set in the center of the grounds with these white washed and very sparse cabins surrounding it. These habitats have basic electricity but no running water. There is no wifi and not one lap top or television to be seen. The cost of each cottage can be up to $10,000 and they are either passed down through generations or auctioned off at the end of each year’s revival. Basically, most have just beds, lighting and a fan in them. Curtains are used to partition off areas.There are three bath houses for men and three for women. Each family brings their own unique style to their home away from home…Ruthie raised a foster child who returned to her birth mother at age 13 only to end up dying on the streets of Philadelphia. The exterior of Ruthie’s “home” is a memorial to Heather while her daughter is fighting brain cancer and sits quietly quilting outside the cabin. A mother with 5 children found a pink light to soften the look inside and she created a shabby chic haven. One cabin was “pranked” with colorful postettes adorning the plain white. Flowers, streamers, crosses, bibles and books by Glen Beck can be found outside. There are “porch visits” that go on throughout the day for the purpose of “Christian Fellowship”. Some met here for the first time and are now sitting on their porch as a married couple. Others remember coming when there were only tents and now have their own cabin. RV’s are permitted on the grounds for $40. per night and do have water and electric hook ups.
This year’s small booklet listing the speakers and program related the Statement of Faith as the following:
“We believe that the Bible is the Word of God.”
“God is a Triune God.”
“Jesus Christ is the only savior of men.”
“Man in his natural state is totally depraved. Man is sinfully enslaved in transgression, and without the provision of God’s saving grace through Jesus Christ, is eternally lost.” These tenets have remained the same since the founding by Paster MacDannald. What has changed is the operating budget which is now approximately $74,000.
The day begins at 6:30 with the ringing of the bell. 7:30 is family worship and no recreation may take place during times of worship.
There are speakers each day at 10:00, 2:30 and 7:00 pm. Snacks can be purchased or meals can be taken in the dinning hall with two seatings of 400. The menu basically stays the same from year to year. Saturday is always chili for “dinner” at 11:45 and chicken barbecue for supper at 5:00. There is supervised recreation. Saturday is “Parade Day” and the “Peanut Hunt” in the afternoon. The purpose of the recreation program is to “develop attitudes and behaviors that exemplify the Lord Jesus Christ.” Activities include quoits, street hockey, volleyball and basketball. Crafts are held Monday through Friday at 2:30 – 3:30 each year and crafts for women are at 1:30 pm on the days announced. At 10:30, there is the ringing of the bell, signaling the end of the day and all to be in their cottage. No smoking or alcohol is permitted and no soda is served.
For one week each year, there is a continuity of faith and family. Just as in Brigadoon, there is a type of shielding from the influences of the outside world that is embraced by generation after generation. On August 16, 2015, the Central Manor Camp was brought to a close…it saw its moment in the sun and now has returned to its stark waiting stillness.
Sources: “123rd Annual Program of Central Manor Camp and Bible Conference”
“Central Manor Campmeeting Celebrating a Memorable Century 1892 -1992