For the Taylor siblings, summer would not be complete without a stay at Seyfert Camp.
The Taylors attend Christian revival meetings at the camp in Robeson Township each summer. So they were crestfallen when the camp association canceled the annual weeklong event due to the coronavirus.
“I was two weeks old when my parents first brought me to the camp,” Esther Taylor Ebersole said. “We just could not let the summer go by without meeting at the camp.”
Esther, 85, of Inverness, Fla., the oldest of the six surviving Taylors, joined her two brothers and three sisters for a week of family prayer, praise and work.
Although the camp facilities are closed and all group activities have been canceled, association members may visit to maintain their cabins and the grounds.
Founded in the early 1920s by the Holiness Christian Church, the camp has been independently owned and operated by its members as a Christian retreat since 2009.
The siblings’ parents, the Revs. Paul and Grace Taylor, early administrators of the camp, were both ordained ministers of the denomination.
“That’s why we were so good,” Esther said, laughing.
The Taylors, who lived in Reading in the 1940s, described their mother as a saint who raised nine children.
An older half-brother and two half-sisters, the children of their father’s first marriage, have died.
As a widower, Paul married Grace and together they had six children.
The couple’s example of Christian living and faith had a strong influence on them, the surviving Taylor siblings said.
“It seems like when you are raised in a Christian environment, you go towards that,” Miriam said.
The youngest brother, the Rev. Daniel Taylor, 77, of Laurel, Del., grew up to become a minister and is president of the camp.
Three of the sisters, Eunice Taylor Wooten, 83, of Union Bridge, Md.; Miriam Taylor Schmidt, 79, of Oxford, Chester County; and Dorcas Taylor Folmer, 76, of Stockton, Cal., married ministers.
Eunice’s late husband, the Rev. Kenneth Wooten, was a longtime director of the camp. Its modern dormitory, the Wooten Building, informally known to camp members as “the motel,” was named in his memory.
Many of the lessons by which the Taylors live were learned at Seyfert. They can still remember the anti-tobacco and alcohol rhymes they were taught at camp.
“T-o-b-a-c-c-o, tobacco; shall big worms upon it grow. Shall we use it? No, no, no,” they chanted in unison.
The camp’s teachings took, and none of the siblings grew up to use alcohol or tobacco.
The elder Taylors encouraged Christian fellowship and camp offered a fun way to make friends and grow in faith, they said.
David, 81, of Wilmington, Del., also found love at Seyfert.
He met his wife, Charlotte, at the camp when both were teens.
“There were kids from camp in our wedding party,” he said.
In the camp chapel, called the Tabernacle, David pointed out the Mourner’s Bench, the padded rail at the front of the church. In evangelical churches, this is where the repentant kneel to receive forgiveness for their sins and experience rebirth, he explained.
“Right there is where I accepted Christ as a teenager,” he said, pointing to a spot at the edge of the bench.
David serves as unofficial camp groundskeeper since retiring about 15 years ago. His wife runs the camp snack shop, Charlotte’s Web. The couple have three sons, two daughters and 23 grand- and great-grandchildren.
Of the close to 70 cabins in the grove, 20 are owned and used by generations of the Taylor family.
“But this isn’t a Taylor family camp,” David stressed. “It is a family camp.”
Its many members and volunteers are what make Seyfert such a special place for spiritual growth, he said.
Aware of the need for social distancing, the family gathered alone Wednesday morning for an improvised worship session in the shuttered snack shop. For the musical siblings that also meant singing hymns and gospel songs.
They miss the Christian fellowship, they said, agreeing it is as important to the camp as the preaching, prayer and praise.
“We say camp is for three things,” said the Rev. Daniel Taylor. “It is for spiritual enrichment, good fellowship and good food.”
The Taylors know good food. The women of the family run the mess hall during camp week and head cook Eunice is renowned for her skills in the kitchen.
Dan’s wife, Betty, serves as camp secretary, and other family members help in various capacities.
The family hopes the coronavirus situation will change soon and the camp association is moving ahead with plans to celebrate its 100th anniversary next summer.
“We have a lot of history here, a lot of pleasant memories,” Miriam said. “This is our life.”