Camp meeting revived at Ute Lake

Courtesy photo More than 100 people gathered at Ute Lake this summer for the Ute Lake Camp Meeting. Organizers say they are excited to see the Mesa Redondo Cowboy Camp reborn at the lake and are already planning next year’s camp meeting.

Sharna Johnson

Organizers of the Ute Lake Camp Meeting are excited to see a near 30-year tradition resurrected and reborn at the same time.

Formerly known as the Mesa Redondo Cowboy Camp Meeting, this year saw a return of the summer worship gathering for the first time in three years.

Attendees had the option to camp overnight during the three-day gathering and shared meals, song and worship.

Started in Clovis in 1978, the camp meeting was eventually moved to Mesa Redondo until the early 2000s, when it was moved to Ned Houk Park north of Clovis.

The gathering began to fizzle and, by 2007, died out, according to Camp Manager Dan Pearce.

But there were those who hated to see it go, particularly Pearce and Wilma Fulgham.

And each credits the other with being instrumental in bringing the camp meeting back to life.

Fulgham, who was involved in organizing the first camp meeting in 1978, said she was excited when Pearce showed an interest in trying to bring it back and even more excited to see it actually happen.

“Of course I’m thrilled. I’m very thankful,” she said.

Held in late June, the camp meeting drew more than 100 worshipers daily, about 40 of which stayed and camped, said Pearce.

And the non-denominational camp meeting had a new feel this time around, he said, expanding beyond its cowboy foundation to attract a diverse group of outdoor lovers from throughout the state who wanted to share in fellowship.

The camp meeting drew people from all walks of life and religions ranging from Baptist to Catholic and more.

Fulgham said holding the gathering at Ute Lake and broadening the appeal beyond the cowboy culture gives it a more secure future and one she believes can reach more people.

“It opens up a lot of opportunities with the lake there. We just want to provide a ministry in the lake setting,” she said.

“We just want to reach people for Christ. By taking the cowboy out of the name, we can appeal to people who might say, ‘Well, I’m not a cowboy so I don’t have any business going’.”

But it still has a distinctly western feel to it, she said.

Pearce said the concept of camp meetings is drawn from the late 1800s, when people would travel from miles away in the fall to gather for “Brush Arbors” or camp meetings.

“We just kind of tried to recapture that experience of getting back to camping and getting back to real worship,” he said.

Because of the success the camp experienced this year, Pearce said organizers have already begun planning next year’s, which will also be held in June.