Ocean Grove N.J., a one square mile town along the North Jersey seashore, is known for its state and national historic designation as having the largest aggregate of Victorian and early 20th century structures in America. Founded in 1869 during the holiness movement by a group of ministers and friends, its mission is to establish a permanent Christian camp meeting community with the purpose of providing opportunities for spiritual birth, growth, and renewal through worship, education, cultural, and recreational programs for persons of all ages in a Christian seaside setting.
While much has changed since its founding in 1869, much remains the same. The Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, a Christian ministry organization, owns all of the land in Ocean Grove and leases it to homeowners and businesses for 99-year renewable terms. It’s still a dry town and the beach is still closed on Sunday mornings. 114 tents, which are occupied from May to September, continue to frame the Great Auditorium just as they have done since 1869.
However, a drive through the town of historic Victorian homes reveals more than latticed rooftops and widow’s peaks. On many homes hang blue flags with yellow equal signs, which indicate support for same-sex couples being allowed to have civil union ceremonies on Camp Meeting Association property, such as the boardwalk pavilion. Historically, the pavilion has been used for bible studies, church services, gospel choir performances, and weddings.