Martha’s Vineyard: Methodists Prayer Camp

“It was a standard white-bread hot dog bun oozing with orangey-pink lobster meat, dotted with tiny slices of celery ribs, and held together by globs of creamy mayonnaise. “Careful,” Jaime warned, stretching the plate out closer to Hazel’s lap. “It’s sort of a two-hand situation.”
Hazel brought the soggy roll to her mouth and bit down at one end. A mouthful of buttery, lemony goodness greeted her, and she swooned. “S’good,” she mumbled, wiping the corners of her mouth. It wasn’t just good. It was heavenly and tasted exactly the way she’d always thought that summer should.”
― Alexandra Bullen, Wishful Thinking


This was their first trip to Martha’s Vineyard. Mine, too, I told them. They came in from Oklahoma. Oh, I’ve been there, I said. You have a great cowboy museum. We live just down the road from it, they said. How do you like the lobster? Is it any good? So delicious, they said. Can’t you tell? They were definitely making quick work of it.

They’d gotten theirs at the Menemsha Fish Market, just down the road from the home where Billy Joel used to summer, same as us. The place where they have the biggest lobster I have ever seen. Did they say that lobster was a 129 years old? Really? How can a person tell how old a lobster is?

We could have spent a day in Menemsha, or Edgartown, or Oak Grove or any of the other villages we drove through on our tour of Martha’s Vineyard. A day? We could have spent a week, or a summer at each village. It would have been lovely.

As it was, though, we only had one day. We’d taken the ferry over for the day. It wasn’t nearly long enough of a time but we made quick work of our visit, just like the mother and daughter did of that lobster. Sucking every juicy minute out of the day.

Ann Marie made all the arrangements, ensuring we had tickets for the ferry. Her daughter Terri and granddaughter Anna and daughter-in-law Terah completed the group. The last time Anne Marie made the trip Terri was in 8th grade.

You know how it is when you live near touristy stuff: You aren’t the tourist, so you wait till company comes. Our friend Gordon lived near Nashville but never went to the Opry until we came to town.

But we all knew when we saw the boat named Ann Marie that we were in for an extraordinary day. God’s Poetry, right?

It’s about a 50 minute ferry ride from New Bedford to Martha’s Vineyard, which was not named for Martha Stewart or Martha Washington in case you were wondering.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the town grew up out of a tent revival, whereby a bunch of Methodists pitched their camp  tents in a circle and commenced to praying for the lost and those practicing debauchery.

You can still gather for prayer at The Tabernacle in Oak Grove, the site of the original camp meeting. And if you happen to be there on a Wednesday, you can join in the Wednesday night sing alongs.

Sadly, we missed the singalong by a day, but we didn’t lack inspirational moments. I asked Boris of Serbia if he could come home with me so he could read to me. Maybe, he said. Have you heard a Serbian accent? An avid skier he was pretty excited to learn I live near Mt Bachelor.

We took a tour around the island, which was so much bigger than I imagined, and so rich in history.

We saw the place where John Belushi is buried.
Who knew he was a MVY kinda of guy?

And the iconic places where the movie JAWS was filmed. Not that I can remember any of it. I think I was 17 when the movie came out.

We saw the quirky art in the park and learned that David McCullough and MLK found the solitude they needed to write in the Vineyard.

We heard stories about Jackie O, whose private estate is now owned by Caroline and who sold part of it to the island conservancy last year. And how devastated the entire island was when John Jr.’s plane crashed.

Sheryl King of Martha Vineyard Tours is a 5th generation islander, whose Portuguese ancestors were whalers. She knows a lot of island history and ensured that we heard the stories of the Wampanoag, the peoples native to the island. These cliffs behind Ann Marie are part of their sacred lands.

About 20,000 people live on the island year round. But during peak months the population can swell to 200,000. Housing, like everywhere is hard to come by. Seasonal workers often just rent a room from locals. The cheapest home on the island will run you about $700,000.

And a lobster roll at Menemsha Farm Market, the place to go if it seafood you are in search of, will cost you about $17. There’s wooden planks perched on plastic crates back behind the market, along the dock, where you can seat a family of six and sup on lobster bisque or gnaw down on a lobster roll. We recommend you get the hot lobster roll vs the cold lobster roll.

Please heed the signs. Like the one on the door that clearly states “PUSH’ but everyone, including me, “pulls” instead. It’s nearly torn the screen out of the screen door, having folks pull instead of push.

Do take time to visit the local shops. Those shopkeepers are working hard right now. The Corner Market has the best price on souvenirs and Mad Martha’s Ice Cream is worth its hype.

Martha’s Vineyard is built on prayer and party, the locals claim.

I don’t know about you, but that’s my idea of heaven.

Karen Spears Zacharias

Author/Journalist/Educator. Gold Star Daughter.

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