The Friends Community Center located on the grounds of Star Community Church-A Friends Fellowship has been known by many different names. In 1935 the area was officially known as the site of the Star Camp Meeting although camps had taken place years before this recorded date. Some folks refer to the location as The Tabernacle, others the Quaker Revival Grounds, and many locals simply call it the Star Barn. The property adjacent to the Friends Church has been used for a variety of activities including a cow pasture and egg farm, revival destination, roller skating rink, concert house, community center, indoor skate park, church, and most recently one of the Boise area’s most popular rustic wedding venues with over 60 weddings held on the property each year.
One does not have to try too hard to imagine families eagerly spilling out of their Chevy Standards filling the rough timber benches of the 10-day camp meeting Tabernacle. You can almost hear the refrains of hymns stained into the rafters and smell the sawdust that blanketed the floors. Perhaps this is why so many brides now choose this setting; its history is consecrated and they sense the special things that have happened here.
An evangelical interdenominational holiness association spearheaded by Fred Harris had a vision in the mid-1930s for preaching the gospel during a 10-day camping experience at the end of June. Missions and evangelism were widely emphasized during each camp meeting. Special youth and children’s programming were featured during the camp along with the adult services and activities.
Quakers come from a rich heritage that affirms women’s equal calling and platform to preach the gospel. Within this vein, missionary and attending nurse to Tenwek Hospital in Africa, Gertrude Shryock was recorded as the first missionary speaker for the camp in 1936.
Attendees was required to furnish their own tent and bedding, but straw and camp spaces were free of charge. Pamphlets advertising the state-wide camp meeting decreed plenty of free artesian water, grass, and shade on the five-acre campground. One must wonder why fresh air was not promoted along with the grass and shade accouterments. A large Abrahamic tent costing the association a $5 rental fee for 10 days was set-up for chapels on the property as a temporary dwelling. Meals for 10 days totaled a whopping $4.50 or the optional a’ la carte option cost 25 cents. If you were in fulltime Christian work, you received a 50% reduction in meal cost.
In 1938 Miss D. Willia Caffray, world traveling evangelist and educator from Chicago, was selected as the speaker. In 1939 the association secured the group billed as The Cleveland Colored Quintet to lead worship throughout the camp meeting. This is important to note because not every evangelical church in America during the late 30s would have had a woman evangelist or an African American worship group lead their meetings. Being the visionaries that they were, the now Boise Valley Holiness Association were radical for their time.
During the 1940s plans began to form to construct a building for the purpose of housing the many campers who came each year. Many of the trees that canopy the property today were planted in the early 40s. A well was dug and a caretaker’s home, lavatories, workers quarters, small cabins, a temporary dining hall and kitchen were constructed in preparation for the main building during the late 30s and early 40s. In June of 1950 the current structure was finally completed and the 10-day camp meeting would finally gather in a permanent building known as The Tabernacle. Many volunteers made this vision possible through free or discounted labor and materials. Various temporary buildings including the kitchen, small barn, and dining hall had aged since the late 1930s and were taken down or sold and transported off the property in 1970. In 1974 one of the cabins was converted into ladies restrooms for $350.
In 1975 Dr. David LaShana, president of then George Fox College, was the evangelist speaker for the camp.
In 1979 the property was sold to Star Friends Church for $50,000 to be paid over 25 years. An amount of $2,000 would be paid annually to pay off the grounds ̶ $1,000 of the payment was designated to World Gospel Mission and the other $1,000 would go in the Holiness Association fund to continue the camps with an agreement that the association would continue using the property for one week each summer. Camps went on into the mid-1980s, and the property was paid in full in 2002 by Star Friends Church. Since that time a concrete floor was poured to replace the sawdust, a new red roof has replaced the long-standing metal slabs. The character of the building has managed to shine through some of the needed repairs. Its charm coupled with Pinterest have helped boost the location’s popularity as a nuptial venue. The church continues to use the current barn and grounds for many things including community outreach events, non-profit fundraisers, park and recreation activities, and a young adult gathering space.
When all 20 hinged side doors are propped open, the interior space of the Friends Community Center is extended to embrace the surrounding landscape of the grounds and allow natural light and ventilation through the building. The entirety of the property is also recognized in the National Register of Historic Places through the United States Department of the Interior National Park Service.
Star Community Church is glad to be a part of the 80-year history of this place. We know we are stewards of a special dwelling and stand with those in the long line of soft-hearted faithful servants willing to act upon the call of God in their lives. May this community building continue to be set apart for His service.