First Camp Meetings

History Book
History Book
History Book

In the summer of 1907, a camp meeting was held at Southeast Twelfth and Division. Services in the mission hall were shut down for the summer, and everyone who could make arrangements moved out to the rented campground. The large tent, seating several hundred people, was often filled to capacity and many were turned away.

Workers prepare to set up the canvas tent that was used as a tabernacle during the early camp meetings.

Each summer for the next few years, the Apostolic Faith workers rented plots of ground in various areas of the city and held camp meetings. The task of finding a suitable location to set up a large canvas tabernacle and numerous family tents was not always easy. One time the large tent had to be pitched where there were no trees to give relief from the hot sun, but nothing deterred the people who eagerly anticipated the coming camp meeting.

Workers unroll a tent canvas at a post-World War I camp meeting.

Bible teachings given at these meetings were especially beneficial to the growing body of believers who were pioneering this work of evangelism. Messages given on justification, sanctification, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, Christian living, and the coming of the Lord laid the foundation of God’s Word deep in hearts and enabled the believers to meet the spiritual challenges of their day.

The first church paper printed in Portland reported this about the 1907 camp meeting: “The camp meeting ran for three months. There was hardly a day but that two or three would get their baptism. One night the crowd outside unhooked the curtains of the tabernacle and threw in stones. The altar service went right on. Reporters came and kept an account of the meetings in the papers, which, though calculated to oppose the meetings, brought in crowds to hear the truth.”

The first camp meeting in Portland was held in 1907 on a rented campground at Southeast Twelfth and Division.

Each summer between 1907 and 1919, a campground was rented for the annual summer camp meeting.

Many were added to the congregation during the camp meetings, as people from various walks of life assembled to hear the preaching of the oldtime religion. Members from nominal churches, including deacons, Sunday school teachers, and other Christian workers, became awakened to their spiritual needs, sought God at the altars of prayer, found their hearts’ desire, and some chose to affiliate with the Apostolic Faith people.

Children pose for a picture on the Kenton campground.
The tabernacle on the Kenton campground in 1918.

The oldest and the youngest attendees at the Kenton camp meeting in 1918.

Water baptismal services were always one of the highlights of the camp meetings, and were indicative of the many who had been converted during the year. Early baptismal services, where hundreds were baptized, were held in the Willamette and Columbia Rivers. Members of the congregation would gather along the banks to watch as the baptismal candidates went down into the water, where they were immersed by members of the ministerial staff according to instructions given in the Word of God.

Workers gather to pray by the river bank just before a water baptismal service.

Transportation to the baptismal services varied over the years. In 1909 it took five trips of a large launch to transport about 1,000 persons to Swan Island where 219 candidates were baptized. Other years, fleets of chartered streetcars and automobiles took the members to the banks of the rivers.

The riverboat “Blue Bird,” transported people to a baptismal service on Swan Island in 1920.
Water baptismal services were always one of the highlights of the camp meetings.

Crowds stand along the water’s edge to watch the baptismal service.

Another special event at each camp meeting was the ordinance service, where the believers shared the emblems representing the Body and Blood of their Savior, and followed that by a foot washing service. In her diary, one of the pioneers of the Apostolic Faith work gave an account of the first ordinance service held in the Portland mission: “I had never heard of the practice of Washing the Disciples’ Feet, which is one of the ordinances instituted by our Savior and which He commanded us to observe. Sister Crawford gathered the womenfolk around her, in a part of the hall set apart . . . for this portion of the service. The men had a place set apart for them in another part of the building. She took the basin and the towel and girded herself, meanwhile explaining the Scriptures to us who sat in a big circle around her. Then she started to wash our feet, and we took it up and began to wash the feet of others. Oh, how God met with us there as we observed His Word! . . . I have often thought of what a wonderful blessing would be denied us today if she had not patiently instructed us in those early days in those things that were new to us. She leaned hard on God for guidance and on the Word of God for instruction, and always showed us on those blessed pages the reasons for everything.”