“Thank you, Lord, for this brand new day that I ain’t never seen before.”

That prayer was offered up by an old African-American preacher at Salem Camp Meeting one hot August night a long, long time ago — so long ago that we all took special notice that an African-American preacher had been asked to offer a prayer.

The words spoke right to my soul. I have remembered them across the years and I have prayed them silently to myself many, many mornings since then, and publicly on occasion.

Thank you, Lord, for what’s new.

Thank you, Lord, for what we’ve never seen before.

Thank you, Lord, for allowing us to be around long enough to see and experience what is new.

It is a funny thing about tradition. Every tradition started sometime and somewhere and people did it over and over and over again until the new became — well, traditional. Which brings me back to the beginning. The eloquent prayer was offered by my friend on that hot August night. Salem Camp Meeting, forever and a day, started on the Friday before the second Sunday in August.

But things change. Even at Salem. Now, because of the ever-lengthening local school calendar, Salem starts on Friday, July 12 this year — and runs through July 19.

Which brings us to a few more changes, some instilled by choice and others by necessity.

We are tweaking the times for the services. Salem has been going on since 1828 and as far as anybody knows the evening services have started at 8 p.m. That’s because everything used to start at 8 p.m., from high school football games to rodeos and goat ropings. But folks don’t need to stay out quite as late these days, so when you mark your calendars that Salem starts on July 12 — make a note that the service will start at 7:30 — and you can put down that Darrell promised you’d be out by around 8:45, so you would be home before it got good dark. We are doing it for you. We want you to be there.

And we have two stomp down good preachers, too. One is Bill Britt, from Peachtree Road United Methodist Church and he knows how to boil it down and get it said in a way that you will hear and enjoy and understand, and then he’ll have you on your way. The other preacher is Carlos Sibley, from First Baptist in Watkinsville. His sermons come straight from the Word of God and he has a couple of thousand folks come to hear them every Sunday, including 500 or 600 college students from UGA. You know if that many college students will get up on Sunday morning to come and hear a preacher, he’s got something to say worth listening to.

So plan to come to Salem. Start early. Stay short.

We have some other changes, not by our own choosing, but you need to know about them. After more than 30 years with us, Wayne and Kim Hicks have decided to retire, so we have new arrangements for meals at the Salem Hotel. Wayne and Kim will be sorely missed and no two people will be able to replace them. But we will have delicious food served, as always, at the hotel. It will be catered by the same folks that handle the food service at Oxford College, and they do a jam up job.

The biggest change is that we will be serving buffet style, and since services are starting earlier, in an effort to get folks home a little earlier, supper will be served at 5:30, instead of 6. There will still be a second seating if warranted. The lunch buffet will start right after the 11 a.m. service, as always.

Try it. You’ll like it. Try it twice and you’ll have a new tradition. All are welcome — and we mean all — at the Lord’s table, which is what we believe the Salem table to be. It’s a great place to bring your group for an outing. We’ll need to know you’re coming so call Tiffany at 770-786-6841 to make a reservation. She’ll need about three working days notice.

The Lord will be working at Camp Meeting this year. You don’t want to miss out. It will be a new day and folks will be talking about it for years to come. You will want to be one of those people.

“Thank you, Lord, for this brand new day, that I ain’t never seen before.”

Darrell Huckaby is an author in Rockdale County. Email him at dhuck008@gmail.com.