Camp History

FROM THE MOUNTAIN TO THE VALLEY:  A History of Bible Camp at Madison Church of Christ

By Winston  Phifer


May of 1956 was a monster month!

  • Elvis Presley’s first record (Heartbreak Hotel) for RCA was also his first record to hit number 1 on the country, pop, and r&b charts.
  • Mickey Mantle enjoyed a monster month by hitting a home run from each side of the plate in the same game and then twice coming within inches of blasting a home run OUT of Yankee Stadium.
  • Needles won the Kentucky Derby in a fast time of 2:03.4.
  • The United States exploded its first airborne hydrogen bomb.
  • The Brooklyn Dodgers’ Carl Erskine pitched his second no-hitter in a 3-0 win over the Giants.
  • Sun records released Johnny Cash’s I Walk the Line.
  • The Fugitive Poets celebrated a reunion at Vanderbilt University. 

It was also a monster month at the Madison Church of Christ!

The front page of the Christian Caller featured an announcement from the pen of Dr. Ira North that was sandwiched between the block headline   BIBLE CAMP ANNOUNCED and the streaming headline This is Only the Beginning…Do Your Part….We are Marching for the Master. The Announcement read:

This summer we begin something new at Madison that we believe will be a great and wonderful thing.  Four sessions of Bible camp are planned for this summer.

Call it breaking news.

Call it a hit…even a home run.

Call it wonderful.

Call it a milestone in the 76-year history of the Madison Church of Christ.

Call it the beginning of a camping ministry that has been marching for 55 years.


Like so many of Madison’s innovative ministries, the idea for a Bible camp was born in the mind of Avon North (“Sister Preacher” as Dr. North affectionately called her).  Sometime during the spring of 1956, she suggested to the preacher that he needed to take Madison’s teenagers to the mountain for some intensive Bible study.  Urban sprawl was already in its infant stages in the Madison community that had grown from a sleepy farming hamlet when the congregation was established in 1934, into one of the largest urban shopping centers in the Southeast.  The Madison church was growing just as swiftly, and the preacher’s wife said,

“Ira, you need to get these kids out of the city and take them to the mountain for some time close to nature for some Bible study and recreational activity.”

The preacher wasted no time in putting the idea into work shoes.