Thursday, July 19, 2007

It’s Campmeeting Time!

Carol and I will load our loaner beautiful motor home this morning (thanks to Mark and Carlene Hixon of Southaven RV Super Center) to head south for our home county of Choctaw in central Mississippi to participate in the 136th Campmeeting at South Union United Methodist Campground. The annual campmeeting begins this evening and concludes with the evening service on Wednesday, July 25th. Our four-year-old grandson, Casey Joe, is going with us and our two-year-old grandson, Weston, and daughter, Stacey, will hopefully come down for a visit. Read more about South Union's rich spiritual heritage. (The above picture is me along with our daughter, Stacey and a friend, blowing the cow horn signaling the beginning of a worship service under the arbor in the early 80's)

Campmeeting takes us back to a simpler time; just good old-fashioned worship of God under the open arbor with hymns like, “I’m Dwelling in Beulah Land,” “Revive Us Again” and “Love Lifted Me.” Campmeeting affords us the opportunity to worship and to teach our children to worship in the same place our ancestors did, in the same way. We can go back to a single, uncomplicated time and place and always know that God is with us and He loves us. There are 4 worship services each day - 8:30 & 11 am and 3 & 7:30 pm.

The Camp Meeting preacher this year is Rev. Rex Wilburn of Bruce United Methodist Church. Carol and I will serve as the song leaders. I have been the main preacher for two campmeetings at South Union and song leader at least a dozen times over the years.

Carol and I will forever be grateful to my late grandparents - Arnold & Jennie Lee Bruce and Casey & Grace Smith - for introducing us to the life-giving Spirit of South Union United Methodist Campmeeting. (The above picture is of Carol and and our grandson, Weston, under the arbor in 2006)

What is a Campmeeting? Campmeeting is a uniquely American institution, and from the earliest days of our nation it has been a vital tool for the propagation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

During the first half of the 1800's, the population of the United States grew from five to thirty million, and the boundary of the nation moved ever westward. Revivals became the primary means of Christianizing the growing and expanding population. These revivals at the beginning of the nineteenth century became known as the Second Great Awakening. (the photo to the left my great grandmother Beulah at South Union in 1950 second from left on front row. She is buried in South Union Cemetery)

Campmeeting movement is cited at Rehoboth, North Carolina in 1794. The campmeeting revival movement the moved west to thOn the American frontier, Campmeetings came to characterize revivals. The beginning of thee Cane Ridge, Kentucky. At a meeting in June, 1800, Presbyterian James McGready and two other pastors preached for 3 days; on the fourth day, two traveling Methodist ministers officiated and concluded with an emotional exhortation. Many physically collapsed at what they called conviction of sin. People were convinced they were experiencing a visitation of the Holy Spirit such as the early church had known at Pentecost. By the early part of the 19th Century, Campmeetings had become a fixture of Rural America in the Northeast, Midwest and on the American Frontier. (the photo to the left is of my Mom and Dad in front of his Model T taken at South Union last year)

As the summer harvest was completed and the crops "laid by," families would get together and build "brush arbors," where they would hold Christian meetings, sing and catch up on the latest news with each other's families. This is the tradition from which the modern campmeeting has come.

Shingleroof Campmeeting, located in the heart of Henry County, Georgia, is a truly remarkable institution. The story of Shingleroof Campmeeting is a tale of religious devotion, love of heritage and cultural preservation. Read the online book about Shingleroof Campmeeting.

Far from being a dried relic of the past, Campmeetings still provide the opportunity for many people to hear the message of Salvation and Scriptural Holiness.

The best way to experience campmeeting is to stay on the grounds the whole time. I stayed in a (wooden) tent with my grandparents during my childhood but now enjoy a camper with some of the more modern conveniences like air conditioning and running water. There is a special kind of fellowship that takes place around the Arbor and the tents after the worship services and during the activities of the day. (The photo at left is of our children, Stacey and Casey, taken at South Union in 1986. My Dad "tented" with them that year and helped them to cave their names in the tree at the spring)

Today many people believe the usefulness of the campmeeting has passed. They consider it an old mode of operation that needs to be put to sleep. I strongly disagree. Instead of allowing the campmeeting to die I believe we should renew our efforts to bring it to new life.

Campmeetings drawing thousands of people are going on almost constantly all over the nation. At these campmeetings people spend thousands of dollars on admission, food, lodging, and the materials offered by the promoters. Oh, they’re not called campmeetings, they’re called conferences. At these "campmeetings" people sit all day long listening to speaker after speaker, several days at a time. (The photo at right is my grandfather Casey Smith at South Union School in 1913 back row with X above him)

At the church campmeeting you won’t pay a steep admission charge, and no one will ask you to buy hundreds of dollars worth of materials, No, you won’t be staying at the Ritz-Carlton twenty floors above the city streets, but then you won’t have to pay their price. The food won’t be steak or lobster. But your experience at campmeeting can definitely change your life.

I am old enough to remember campmeeting days at South Union when we had to haul the water from the spring and the floors under the Arbor and in the tents were sawdust. I also remember is the sight of altars covered with people seeking God and lives being changed. No, God does not need tents, sawdust, benches, or campgrounds to meet with us. But when we choose to set aside a special time to get away from the normal routine to seek God and to hear from Him, He will meet with us like at no other time. Our faith will be met with God’s faithfulness to minister to us, drawing us ever closer to Him. (The photo at right is Carol's first Campmeeting in 1953 when she was 2 months old)

We would love to have you visit us at South Union Campmeeting. Click here for directions.

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