“Long ago when but a boy at old camp meeting time, How my heart did leap for joy to hear the old bells chime, Calling all the saints of God into the house of pray’r, Oh, such praying, singing, shouting for the Lord was there.”--A.M. Pace, 1934
The camp meeting has been a huge part of Christian experience for centuries now. We take for granted our grand church buildings, but the pioneers met wherever they could to hear the word of God: school houses, court houses storefronts,, brush arbors, tents, and in the open air. During the Second Great Awakening in the early 1800s, camp meetings sprang up all across the frontier. The most famous of these was the Cane Ridge meeting, in Bourbon County, Kentucky. I’ve been to the sight. It was the result of a Presbyterian prayer meeting held in 1801. By the end of the meeting, thousands had come to hear the preaching. There were multiple preachers at different sites. There were also vendors and many came for the social as well as the religious aspect. But many people’s hearts were turned toward God. Barton Stone and some others who were instrumental in the meeting were disciplined by the Presbyterian Church for participating in irregular services with believers of other denominations and this started a chain of events that led them to leave their denominational names and titles, take the name of Christian only, and adopt the Bible as their only rule of faith and practice. This, along with what the Campbells and others were doing in other parts of the country, laid the foundation for the Restoration Movement.
Over the years, camp meetings continued to spring up whenever there was a need. In recent decades there has been a resurgence of preaching meetings in a camp setting. The biggest of these in the Restoration Movement is the Hillsboro Family Camp. You can read a little bit about this camp and its impact on my life here. Last weekend, I found out that the Hillsboro Family Camp has been cancelled this year. Most of our other brotherhood camp meetings have been as well. One more victim of COVID. I am really sad that we won’t be able to participate in it. There is just something special about Christians, especially those separated by distance, coming together to worship God and share in his word. I’m sad that we won’t see the baptisms this year--may God work to reach these people in other ways! I’m sad that the songs won’t swell and fill the rafters of the main shelter. I’m sad that I won’t be provoked in heart and mind by some preacher who knew just what to say at the right time. And more mundanely, I’m sad to be losing a memory-making trip with my family. But God is good. Camp meetings will spring up again, and they’ll be used by God as they once were. My job right now is to see where and how God is working in this time and get on board.