CAMPMEETINGS: NOT FOR STIFF NECKS
Published 7:23 pm Friday, July 29, 2022
Around Christmas time when my grandson was about five years old, he wanted to stay in the kitchen with his “grandma” rather than go to communion with other family members. So, he begged and whined, but no, his dad said, “You are going to communion.
He stood quietly for a few minutes. “Grandma, is communion for Christians? he asked.
“Yes, communion is for Christians,” I said with assurance.
“Well, then, I can’t go. We’re Methodist!”
I have been a Methodist all my life. Stiff necks as we are called.
However, my great aunt, Nita, was a holiness preacher. Nobody at her church was stiff necked. I liked going there.
And, I was fortunate also to have relatives who attended old-time country churches where they sang out loud and way off key. Where they waved their hands and shouted, “Amen!” and “Thank you, Lord!” and even stood and shouted, “Hallelujah!” and got down on their knees to pray.
Stiff-neck Methodist didn’t do that, not at my church.
But I went with my grandmother to tent revivals and brush arbor services. I went to gospel singings and camp meetings. Then, one day, my grandson, who now lives in North Carolina, and I lost our way in search of Jim “N Nicks and lemon pie came upon what looked like shanty town. One shed, squeezed between another and another. Then, a freshly painted story and half cabin next to a shack and then a cabin with Victorian trim. What in the world?
What appeared to be a huge, tight circle of squatter abodes,” dust-bowl huts, backwoods cabins, middleclass brownstones and Aunt Sissy’s boarding houses was something out of this world.
Stranger even than fiction.
This place that seemed out of place in today’s world is Pleasant Grove Camp Meeting Ground, a historic Methodist camp — a national historic district –near Waxhaw in Union County, North Carolina.
The third week of July each year, the camp meeting is held at the campground. Families from all across the country come to be together in fellowship and to worship together.
I wanted to go back. I wanted to experience, once again, the old-time gatherings, the singing off key, the children asleep on the rough-hewn pews, the long-winded preacher, shared meals beneath the trees and the laughter of kids on swings and the stories being told on the porches.
The journey back there was long but, for one night, I was back at Aunt Nita’s church, back at a tent revival. Back seated on a wood bench and back listening to a longwinded preacher until all God’s children said, “Amen!”