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Family Revival

A documentary film
produced by
the Emory Center for Myth and Ritual in American Life (MARIAL)

Every summer, for the past 175 years, dozens of Southern families have gathered at a rustic campground forty miles east of Atlanta. Since 1828, families have attended Salem Camp Meeting, a weeklong retreat that is part family reunion, part religious revival. It has a profound effect on the families who attend.

The healing power of Salem is captured in a documentary called Family Revival, produced by the Emory Center for Myth and Ritual in American Life (MARIAL). The film tells the story of Salem through the experiences of two working mothers who pause one week every summer to spend a week at Salem. Here they embrace the gentler rhythms of a time gone by, when there were no cell phones, computers, televisions or other modern conveniences that conspired to keep them busy.
Based on four years of research done by Emory Anthropology Professor Bradd Shore, who also directs the MARIAL Center, the film explores the history of Salem Camp Meeting and its role in family culture, memory, myth and ritual.

Those who attend camp meeting told Shore that the annual gathering is "like ground zero of our lives." It offers them a chance to go back in time and live a simpler life free of television, radio, air conditioning, and even the telephone, if they are so inclined. The daily schedule of activities, which center around Bible readings, worship services and just sitting around, has not changed since 1828. "There is no multitasking here," Shore said.
Family and spiritual ties are fused and the ambience has a powerful effect on families because "it is an attempt to restore a mythic image of past family life," Shore said. Several generations gather under one roof and reminisce about past Salem camp meetings and family members who have passed. The spare cabins, with floors covered in wood chips, also function as a kind of museum, holding photographs and mementos of patriarchs and matriarchs who were among the first to attend Salem camp meeting.
Salem is a magical place that comes alive one week a year. Family Revival opens the door to outsiders.

For more information about Family Revival or the MARIAL Center, please call Bradd Shore at 404-727-4200, or go to www.emory.edu/COLLEGE/MARIAL