Posts Tagged ‘Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association’

Ocean Grove, New Jersey. Paul Goldfinger photograph. Blogfinger.net © Undated

Ocean Grove, New Jersey. Paul Goldfinger photograph. Blogfinger.net © Undated


By Paul Goldfinger,  Editor @Blogfinger.   Be sure to read the comments below from 2015.  Others can be added now (2022)

Ocean Grove United foolishly bowed out of the ceremonies in Auditorium Square Park today. The event was to thank everyone who participated in the Together Campaign. The word Together in the title was chosen for a reason—–all components of the Ocean Grove community joined together to work towards a complete Sandy recovery, and that included the OGU membership and leadership.

Now, because one man said certain things in a religious service seven days ago, this group was willing to cast aside a relationship that has been three years in the making. Why is that a good idea? Do you OGU members really want to divorce yourselves from your town over this? Do you really believe that Ocean Grove is a place that is anti-gay?   Is that your message to a town that has embraced the gay community?

I know more gay people in this town than I ever knew in my entire life. I have learned so much about that community and I am happy to be in a place that is exemplary in its tolerance.

OGU members: How about finding a different way to deal with the current situation, one that will continue to bring everyone together and to focus on what’s right and good in this very special town.


CHRIS MARTIN   (Coldplay)   “Us Against the World.”

“The tightrope that I’m walking just sways and ties
The devil as he’s talking with those angel’s eyes
And I just want to be there when the lightning strikes
And the saints go marching in..”


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Jason Tramm, music director for the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association. By Paul Goldfinger ©

Jason Tramm, Director of Music Ministries for the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association. 2014.  By Paul Goldfinger ©


Being a conductor, Maestro Tramm often has his back to the audience so here he is in a rare frontal view.  This image was obtained at the September 1, 2014 annual Camp Meeting  Association Labor Day public summary* of the season’s successes.

Jason Tramm  is a young man who is considered a rising star in the music world.   In Ocean Grove he manages an ambitious program of choral, orchestral and oratorial works.  He believes that adding music to inspirational words creates a powerful combination, so he plans even more great choral works in the Great Auditorium next season.

But Maestro Tramm, like all great musicians, appreciates music that crosses over the genre divides.

To hear Itzhak Perlman play klezmer  or Dick Hyman crossing over from classical to jazz, or, as in this case, the great late operatic soprano Eileen Farrell performing pop music shows how that works.

And so it is with Jason Tramm who brings us all sorts of music in the Grove.   Hopefully he will be able to cross those divides regularly in the Great Auditorium so that a variety of audiences can enjoy his versatility.


EILEEN FARRELL:    What music can we post to go with Jason’s photo?  Putting up an opera aria is too easy.

Here is Eileen Farrell   with “The More I  See You” by Harry Warren  and Mack Gordon.



* 2022:    Note that the CMA did not have their public meeting this past Labor Day. We can speculate on that change, but not now.

And, we noted above that Jason Tramm is a strong believer in enhancing words with music.  We feel the same way on Blogfinger, so most of our posts are enhanced with music, just as music always enhances movies.

In our case, the coupling of music with still photography,  poetry and even opinion pieces is still an original idea of ours, and we will continue.

At one point in Blogfinger history, one of our editors complained that we were posting too much music, but I believe that music is something that we humans naturally appreciate, somewhere in our brains, so we will keep it up, and many of you have told us that you love the music.


Editor: Paul Goldfinger, MD.   Just returned from Fla-La-land, and glad to be back.

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RAlly on September 3, 2007. Tabernacle. Paul Goldfinger photo.©

Rally on September 3, 2007. Tabernacle. Paul Goldfinger photo.©



Sunday service in the Boardwalk Pavilion on Sept 2, 2007. Paul Goldfinger photo ©

Sunday service in the Boardwalk Pavilion on Sept 2, 2007. Paul Goldfinger photo ©



Youth Temple: Community joins together to raise money after Sandy. c. 2014 Paul Goldfinger photo

Youth Temple: Community joins together to raise money after Sandy.
c. 2014 Paul Goldfinger photo


By Paul Goldfinger, MD,  Editor @Blogfinger  (April, 2015 ).  Update in 2020 and repost in 2021.

On January 13, 2013, about 300,000 marchers converged on Paris to oppose the idea of legalizing gay marriage in France.

Earlier that week, the Episcopal Diocese of the Washington, D.C. area announced that gay marriage ceremonies will be held in the National Cathedral, the 6th largest in the world. In 2013, the US Supreme Court  ruled in favor of gay marriage in two cases, the first such cases since they last looked at it 10 years before.

So far, 37 states and the District of Columbia allow gays and lesbians to marry including New Jersey which joined the group on October 21, 2013.

The issue has been contentious in those states where, so far, gay marriage has not been legalized, although there are civil union laws in some states.   Now, about 75% of the population lives in places where gay marriage is legal.

Gay marriage also is a cause for debate by many religions in the US and around the world. The Episcopal church has had a wrenching controversy about gay marriage, and their ruling, which allows such ceremonies in states where it is legal, has caused members and parishes to leave the church.

The United Methodist Church has been discussing changing its policies. Many Fortune 500 corporations have given support to the gay marriage movement. Public opinion has been changing rapidly in that direction as well, and President Obama has reversed himself on the subject. Now over 50% of citizens polled across the country support gay marriage.

Currently the Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments regarding whether same sex marriage is a a right under the 14th amendment regarding equal protection under the laws. That ruling will be issued in June.*

Ocean Grove received state-wide and national attention over the 2007 Pavilion controversy. The Camp Meeting Association had refused to allow a lesbian couple have a civil union ceremony in the Boardwalk Pavilion, and later the State of New Jersey ruled the CMA guilty of discrimination. It resulted in the formation of a gay rights organization in the Grove (Ocean Grove United.)

But the brouhaha in the Grove  was not about civil unions per se, nor did it have anything to do with gay marriage.   It wasn’t even about the tenets of the Methodist Church to ban gay unions and marriages in their churches. Instead it was about discrimination in that one building.

The Boardwalk Pavilion was judged to be a public place, so turning the gay couple away on religious grounds was ruled discriminatory by the State.  And this event in Ocean Grove became part of the fabric of the gay rights movement in New Jersey.

Some wondered whether the Grove would get a reputation as being an anti-gay town and if our town would become a lightening rod for gay issues which might erupt with any local provocation such as the 2013 refusal of the Asbury Park Council to support the OG FEMA appeal.  That refusal was based on the views of some Asbury councilmen who connected the Pavilion matter to their decision to support The Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association or not with the FEMA appeal, and they chose not.  (Subsequently they wisely changed their minds.)

In 2012, when Kirk Cameron came to speak about marriage in the Great Auditorium, there was a demonstration involving perhaps 200 people who protested his appearance because of anti-gay rhetoric which supposedly had expressed elsewhere. The event resulted in a great deal of publicity, even though no actual anti-gay rhetoric on his part occurred then in the Grove.

In July 2013, when Mike Huckabee came to preside at Sunday services in the Great Auditorium, a meeting was held to discuss free speech in the Grove. In attendance were officials of the Camp Meeting and of Ocean Grove United. Just the fact of such a meeting points up how sensitive these issues can be in this town.

Ocean Grove is a unique village, not only because of the significant presence of a religious-based group that follows the tenets of the Methodist Church, but also because of a relatively large gay community living here.

It is fundamentally a tolerant town, but because of past experiences as outlined above, we need to keep our eyes on LGBTQ issues and try to prevent any more brush fires from igniting the whole forest.

The recent initiative of working together for the good of the town sprang from a natural disaster—Superstorm Sandy (2012.)     It created a model for everyone in the Grove to continue this neighborly attitude where everyone works for the common good.

And besides, any issue which is important to a significant number of Grovers should attract the attention of the rest of us.


2020 Update:

On June 26, 2015, the US Supreme Court ruled, in a 5-4 decision, that same sex marriage be legalized in all states.*

The United Methodist Church has 13 million members worldwide.  They have been struggling for over 50 years with concerns surrounding the issues of marriage equality and gay clergy.

Now, the Church is on the threshold of dividing into two branches over these controversies by forming a splinter group—a “traditionalist” Methodist denomination.

Evidently, the stage is set for the two-Church solution to become policy at a meeting in May to be attended by Church officials from all over the world including about 30% from Africa. About 55% are American.

We haven’t heard of any official notice from the OGCMA regarding which group it will associate with, but our sources tell us that the CMA will retain its past “traditional” approach in these matters.

The Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association is not a church, but it has formed an affiliated  Ocean Grove Church which will be meeting at St. Paul’s in the off-season and at the beach in season.  We  understand that the new church will have a “brick and mortar” location on Embury Avenue, but no details have been announced.

We all remember the controversies which surfaced in 2007.  Those wounds could be easily reopened without vigilance in the Grove.

So this topic regarding the split is of interest to many of us who live here and those from out of town who also care.  After Sandy, Blogfinger received  25,000 visits in one day from all over the world, so we do know that there are many who care about Ocean Grove.

Here is a link to a very good update on this topic.  It seems to be a fair presentation by VOX an on-line news site, although VOX is generally a left leaning source.

As usual, comments are welcome here on Blogfinger.



2021 update:   The UMC has decided to delay a split in their church until 2022.  Meanwhile a conservative. “traditionalist”  group called “The Global Methodist Church” will leave the UMC regardless of the eventual decision of the General Conference.


Other churches will also not wait.  Many of those are “Progressive.”

The main issues have to due with ordination and marriage of LGBTQ people.




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Hymns are played by Phil Smith and sung at the Founders Park fountain dedication.  Paul Goldfinger photo July 27, 2019. © Sometimes  religious and local themes merge in the Grove.


A large crowd at a 2013 Doo Wop concert. Where should all these night-time visitors park? Paul Goldfinger photo. ©  Shaboom, shaboom.


The OGCMA , a remarkable and unique organization, is in the awkward position of being irreversibly woven into the fabric of Ocean Grove, NJ—the Town.

The CMA is a private entity, and as such, it rarely offers much information publicly  regarding  its attitudes and plans, especially as it pertains to the town.

But as much as it wants to be private, it is often part of the conversation about parking, zoning, crowding, tourism, historic preservation, commercialism, etc.  And sometimes it does go public, as when its spokesman threatened to sue the town if they so much as discussed permit parking.

As another example, it dropped out of its official role as Co-redeveloper of the North End Redevelopment Plan where it is the land owner. But it still is in the middle of that controversial situation, raising questions as to how much it cares about the town of OG and the life styles of its largely secular residents—- the largest faction in town.

A former CMA President told me during an interview some years ago that “the CMA cares little about the town’s problems—it is all about its religious mission.”   And, of course, that is understandable, but they cannot avoid some public concerns, and they do recognize that.  They are also residents and building owners and tax payers.

Which brings us to parking. We know the CMA cares about parking, because they worry where all their religious tourists will park, and their growing programming will bring thousands more to town in 2020 as they strive towards a year round presence.

But now, they evidently see red lights flashing with the arrival of the BPA. At the Committee meeting on Dec. 9 they sent President Badger who announced that the CMA will “fund and conduct its own parking survey in the near future.”   They have already selected a company to perform a “parking assessment.”

But despite the optimistic spin of the BPA, Badger told the  Coaster reporter that the CMA is opposed to the BPA plan because “it would fundamentally change the town.”  He also is quoted as saying, “There are many aspects to the parking problem in OG since it is not only a bedroom community, but also one with an active beachfront, a business district and events scheduled.”

Yes, but other shore communities with the same descriptors don’t have the large CMA presence which Badger doesn’t mention in his “aspects” description above. This is not a typical shore town because of the CMA.  So let’s define the problem accurately.

And now the Mayor has asked that all proposals be “examined by a joint task force of the OGCMA, the BPA, and the Chamber of Commercials.”

How about the Groaners?   Evidently the Mayor thinks that they have nothing to add despite their efforts in the past on parking.

She said, “There is no perfect solution that will make everybody happy.”

That is true, but the CMA’s track record tells us that they won’t be happy unless a plan provides them with all the parking that they need.

* All quotes are from the December 12 edition of the Coaster.


Paul Goldfinger, Editor Blogfinger.net


Mel Torme´ with the Marty Paich Orchestra


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2017. Attending the Labor Day meeting in the Tabernacle.  . Paul Goldfinger photo. ©


This photograph in front of the Tabernacle represents the secular side of Ocean Grove. Paul Goldfinger photo ©  Blogfinger.net

By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger.net

Over the years I attended many of the annual Labor Day meetings sponsored by the OGCMA.  They usually consisted of reports by each of the departments involved with CMA functions.  Usually the reports were enthusiastic and optimistic, and for those involved with the CMA mission, it was a satisfying event, lasting about 90 minutes.

What was unique was the idea that this was a meeting for the public to attend if it so chose.  I usually took notes and posted the news for Blogfinger, and I would get to speak to some of the participants.  People from the community came out of interest or curiosity, but sometimes they came because they had an “axe to grind.”

At the end of the meeting there was an open mike, and anyone could go to the mike with a question for the  CMA President. Sometimes the question would be critical of CMA policies or would try to clarify some point of interest that was causing friction.  For some, the open mike was the best part of the Labor Day meeting because it was dramatic, interesting and sometimes startling.  Usually the CMA President was quite deft at deflecting criticisms.

Well, it seems that the CMA has decided to abandon that tradition.  This year there will be an event held on Sunday 5 pm in the Auditorium Pavilion. The public is not invited since the announcement says “for friends of the organization.”  I didn’t get an invitation nor would I want to go, but someone sent their copy to me  (below).



There will be a picnic  in the Pavilion followed by a hymn sing in the Tabernacle followed by a “praise report meeting that celebrates the blessings we have experienced this season.”

And there will be no open mike  (ie no surprises) during the part where questions are usually asked of the CMA.  Instead, those who received the email invitation can send in their questions in advance.

So it appears that the CMA is in no mood to be surprised by an open mike, and for those who submit questions, there is no promise that their questions would be answered.  In fact, it is unclear if the questioner can be present for the answer or if the questioner can ask his approved question or respond to the answer.

If any of you want to react to this change, feel free to comment below.

I always thought that it was generous of the CMA to let us all  (those interested) hear such transparent information.  And I thought that those asking embarrassing questions were out of line. I never asked a question.

Most OG citizens won’t care about this change, and those fair minded individuals who hear this news will understand that the CMA is in the midst of redefining itself, and that it is not our business to expect everything from this private organization to be transparent.

On the other hand, surely the CMA understands that some of what they do will generate skepticism because they are in the public arena and what they do may impact all of us who live in the Grove.

On Blogfinger, the religious beliefs of the CMA are not our concern.  But their public policies will continue to be discussed here and we do offer an open mike for those who have something wise, tolerant, fair,  and useful to say about our friends at the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association.


BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN    “Jacob’s Ladder.”

We are climbing Jacob’s ladder
Yeah, we are climbing Jacob’s ladder
We are climbing Jacob’s ladder
We are brothers, and sisters, all


From  the album We Shall Overcome–the Seeger Sessions.

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On August 18, we posted excerpts of the OGCMA statement to the Township regarding parking permits.  As  you recall, the COO threated a law suit over this matter.  After that  (see above) we questioned the meaning of  some of the language found in that statement.

Since then, there has been a brisk debate here about this subject, so it seemed only fair now to  post the entire OGCMA statement.

To maintain context, you can go to that August 18 post  (link below) and click on ” comments” to find the entire speech. In it are some questionable facts, but you can judge for yourself. Here is the link:

Rev. John DiGiamberardino at the Neptune Committee Meeting

If you do want to comment on the entire speech, you can do so by continuing the comments thread above.  Or you can click on comments below this post.

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JP Gradone resigns. 2013 Blogfinger photo.

JP Gradone resigns. 2013 Blogfinger photo.

This announcement was received today by Blogfinger.  It was addressed to “all concerned”  No other information is available.  If any of our readers have opinions or facts about this matter, please comment below:


From Dale Whilden, President of the CMA:

“This is to inform you of a recent change in the staffing of the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association. Mr. JP Gradone has recently resigned as the COO/Executive Director of the Camp Meeting Association. Should you have questions that would normally have been addressed by Mr. Gradone, please contact Sharyn at the Camp Meeting office who will direct your call to the appropriate person.”


Here is a link to our coverage of Gradone’s arrival in OG:


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Ocean Grove's Wesley Lake will form part of the North End Redevelopment zone.  Photo by Paul Goldfinger, 2012.

Ocean Grove’s Wesley Lake will form part of the North End Redevelopment zone. Photo by Paul Goldfinger, 2012. © Click to enlarge.


By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger.

Steve Valk’s letter to the editor speaks about the idea of Ocean Grove as a community of multiple vertically integrated parts which he has analyzed for us in prior interviews.  (Steve Valk on the OG community.  LINK:      BF conversation with social scientist Steve Valk)

He and I both agree that our town is unique  and needs to be appreciated for its fascinating components, one of which is the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association  (OGCMA).

The role of the OGCMA in this community is basically a positive influence, despite what some cynics say. We had a fire last week, and the welcome mat was immediately rolled out at the Youth Temple as well as providing other services such as fund raising for the Fire Relief fund.  The CMA has a track record of emergency relief  and charitable efforts. They reached out to the various town civic groups in a big way after Sandy, and that effort has been remarkable and has benefitted us all.

But, from a wider perspective, what do they view as their place in the overall community of Ocean Grove?  What about now, with the North End Redevelopment looming in the future?  We have heard little from them on this subject.

What does the CMA think about the effects their North End project will have on everyone who calls Ocean Grove home? The CMA did create the town in 1869, so do they really want the North End to become Asbury Park South?  The indications suggest that they do, because they have stuck to their plan which was originated in 2008  and unchanged since then.

Sure, there is the history of the old North End amusement/hotel/recreation area, and that “old fashioned” North End  may be a precedent, but is it historic?   If history is their argument, then maybe they should look at the earliest park-like setting over there which contained tents and trees for perhaps 30 or 40 years after the founding.

The old North End Hotel was torn down in 1978, and this “area in need of redevelopment” has been essentially unchanged since then.  The CMA had to turn over control of the North End Development to Neptune Township, but as land owner and co-developer, it certainly has influence over what happens in the future.

Some citizens believe that the CMA should worry about the effects that the 2008 North End design will have on Ocean Grove’s appearance, safety, parking, lifestyle, etc.    Because the CMA tends not to go public with such concerns, we don’t know how they feel about it, and the final plans are incomplete.  If there are Grovers who believe that the CMA should change its mind about the project, then they should write to them or meet with them.

Sometime, commenters on Blogfinger want the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association to get involved with more general issues in town such as historic preservation and derelict housing.    The basis for that belief seems to mostly stem from the land ownership issue and historic relationships.

But the CMA is a private organization that already does a great deal for the town.  Isn’t it unfair to expect more from them?

—–Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger

AIR SUPPLY:  “Lost in Love.”


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J.P. Gradone (L) COO and Dale Whilden, President at work at the OGCMA offices. DEc, 2013.  Paul Goldfinger photo.

J.P. Gradone (L) COO and Dale Whilden, President, at work at the OGCMA offices. Dec 11, 2013. Paul Goldfinger photo. ©

By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger

Mr. J.P. Gradone, the new COO/Executive Director of the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, moved into town in November with his wife Cheryl  (pronounced CHeryl–like CHerry) and began work at Pitman and Pilgrim.  He has a lovely office on the corner, so he can look in two directions at the visual delights of Auditorium Park and a beauty parlor.   The Gradones moved here from Tennessee where he presided over a 3,000 member church and Christian school.  (BF link about JP Gradone ).  His name is really John Paul  (Mrs. Gradone gave us that scoop).  She calls him “J.P.”  I don’t have a middle name, so I told her to call me” P”

His predecessor interim  COO Ralph del Campo has been running with the FEMA ball for over one year, and now he has first and goal, so he will stay in the game, and Mr. Gradone will work on other tasks such as beach replenishment and warming up the place kicker.

Unknown-7Mr. Gradone just came back from a meeting about the Ocean Grove part of the beach replenishment project. He said that he received “quite an education” on the subject at the meeting which was attended by the Dept. of Environmental Protection and experts regarding the Transatlantic Cable.  Oddly enough the telecommunication cable travels over 8,000 miles to wind up in Avon-By-the-Sea of all places—at Sylvan Lake— New Jersey.  Mr. Gradone was astonished to learn this news, and so were we.

They must have great TV reception over there in Avon. The TA Cable will be carefully protected during work on the Avon beach.   No wonder that blue heron showed up there .  Even the birds are amazed!  (On BF  Carl finds a bird  )

The project is finishing up near Sandy Hook and Long Branch and will then move south to Avon-By-the-Cable.  Then they will head north again and get to Bradley Beach followed by Ocean Grove.

When the Army Corps starts work here  they will rope off 1000 ft. at a time, but the rest of the beach will be accessible to walkers. The work should be started “sometime after the first of the year.” We expect that would be 2014.

Grovers down by the beach can expect some noise and some sand up their noses.  The Army Corps will work 24/7,  so Mr. Gradone thanks you in advance for “your patience.”  He says it won’t be too bad.  When that noise arrives, you will probably wish you lived across from the Stone Pony.

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Nov. 3, 2013. Ralph del Campo (left) and Bill Bailey organize disaster volunteers in the Tabernacle. Paul Goldfinger photo ©

Nov. 3, 2012. Ralph del Campo (right) and Bill Bailey organize disaster volunteers in the Tabernacle. Paul Goldfinger photo ©

August 27, 2013. Ocean Grove, N.J.    By Paul Goldfinger, Editor  @Blogfinger

Ralph delCampo had just retired from his job as a pharmaceutical industry executive early in 2012. He was going to embark on a sabbatical to figure out what he would do next, but after only two months of that, he agreed to replace Scott Hoffman and become the interim Chief Operating Officer of the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association.  He had been on the Board for a few years, and it seemed that running the CMA programs would be right up his alley.  After all, in his career, he was in charge of large operations including supervising corporate programs in multiple countries at the same time.

But when Sandy hit in October, 2012, he found himself faced with a huge challenge.  He has remained at his post longer than he ever expected and he has had to learn how to deal with large government agencies, especially FEMA.  But he has been quite comfortable in supervising the CMA response to the Sandy devastation including working with consultants, planning construction projects, coming up with technological solutions to structural challenges, dealing with elected officials and starting a fund raising campaign.  He and his colleagues have faced many challenges including planning for a future where another large storm will not destroy our homes and facilities.

His official departure date is November 6, 2013, but Ralph lives full time in the Grove, and he will continue to be on the Board of the CMA and on the Executive Committee. He said, “I’ll stay involved.”

The search for the new COO continues, but the field has been narrowed, and a replacement may be announced soon.

Everybody around here calls him Ralph, and his good humor and people skills have certainly come in handy as he pursues financing and reconstruction at the beachfront while supervising the vast programming activities of the CMA.

He also will be one of the individuals who will run the annual Labor Day CMA Public Meeting which will be held in the Youth Temple on Monday, September 2, 2013  at 9:00 am.  The agenda for that meeting is complicated, but Ralph is determined to move things along so that everyone can get to their holiday activities.  There will be the usual opportunity for Q and A at the end.


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