‘Oldham Chapel’ Dedicated at Harvey Cedars Bible Conference

Aug 23, 2017
Courtesy of: Harvey Cedars Bible Conference

The chapel at the Harvey Cedars Bible Conference now bears the name of the man who directed the nonprofit Christian retreat center for nearly 45 years. The facility, which can seat up to 400, will now be known as “The Oldham Chapel,” in a tribute to the Rev. Al Oldham.

Oldham became the director in 1951, and held that post before retiring in 1995. Through the years several buildings were added to the facility, including a dining hall, chapel, lodge, gymnasium and indoor heated pool.

The centerpiece structure is the building that was once the Harvey Cedars Hotel. Dating back to the 1830s when it was originally a one-story vacation spot for fishermen and hunters, it is the last of the 19th-century hotels on Long Beach Island that is still standing.

The conference’s first director was Philadelphia-based evangelist Jack Murray, who established the facility in 1941. At that time, it was known as the Harvey Cedars Bible Presbyterian Conference. In 1949, “Presbyterian” was dropped from the name.

Oldham said that as a college and seminary student, he worked for Murray as a staff member at the conference. At that time, he was looking one day to be a pastor of a church.

“In 1951, Jack Murray quit,” Oldham recalled. “It was on Aug. 1, right in the middle of the summer season. I was asked if I’d like to be the next director, and I couldn’t see that happening. I was just 23.”

It sure seemed like a big job, which entailed making sure that the hundreds of weekly visitors enjoyed their stay and that the staff kept operations running like clockwork.

“People were telling me, ‘You can do it, you can do it,’” Oldham recalled. “I really wasn’t sure, but after finishing up that summer, the more I prayed about it, the more I felt God was moving me in the direction of being the permanent director.”

When he retired, his son Jonathan S. Oldham became the director, and has continued to work to grow the ministry and oversee extensive facilities improvements. Most recently, he oversaw the completion of the Davis Center, featuring a gymnasium, locker rooms, class and meeting rooms, a marine biology lab/classroom, and fitness room.

“I wanted to honor my dad while he is still living,” said Jonathan, who is also mayor of Harvey Cedars. “He is going to be 90 in November. On many occasions, buildings are named for someone who has passed on, but I wanted him to be around for this special honor.”

The elder Oldham, who lives in Manchester Township, said he was “very much moved” by the recent chapel dedication ceremony.

“I thank God for giving me a wonderful son who was able to continue directing the conference,” he said. “Little did I know back in 1951 that this place would be the center of my life for a long time.”

— Eric Englund

ericenglund@thesandpaper.net

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