Some considered it a healthy innovation. Others considered it an experiment, unnecessary and dangerous. But without a doubt, the first camp meeting ever to be held by the forefathers of the Missionary Church was a stunning success. It opened Friday evening July 30, 1880, and continued for ten days. It met in an eight-acre wooded grove, owned by a gentleman named Simon Fetters, located seven miles south of Elkhart, Indiana.
Daniel Brenneman was the District Superintendent who oversaw the organization for this first camp meeting. The District at the time was composed of the Bethel Church and seven other congregations who met in barns, schoolhouses, and homes. Since Bethel was the only actual church, the first Fetter's Grove gathering was called the "Camp Meeting of the Bethel Circuit".
The best information available suggests the camp met in Fetter's Grove each year until 1893. Every two years following, the camp was moved to a new location. In 1918 eight acres of Fetter's Grove was purchased for $2,000.
A typical day at that camp started with a morning prayer meeting. Three sermons were heard each day and the time in between was often filled by fellowship meetings or altar services. Children's meetings were also a part of that very first camp and were usually held around 2 p.m. On Saturday, a baptismal service was held at a nearby stream for those who had made decisions at camp. The last Sunday night of camp was a unique service composed of five-minute sermonettes, one from each minister present.
In the years since 1880, Prairie Camp has been the location of spiritual blessing and progress for many people. It is now used throughout the summer for various programs among children and youth. The Daniel Brenneman camp meeting was an innovation and experiment. Now it is a wholesome influential ingredient of many people's spiritual lives. The Spirit of God has blessed the camp and continues to minister on those grounds through music and the spoken word.