Camping and Camp Meeting

My son called me on Monday to tell me about his week at Wilderness Trail.  I think this is his 12th year to be involved in that ministry either as a camper or a staff person.

He spent three years as a counselor, and was an assistant director his last year on staff.  The past two years he has gone up to lead hikes for a week at a time.

I spent time as a Camp Director, and have spent many days as a volunteer in summer camps over the past 40+ years of my life.  I know the power of camping and outdoor ministries.

I am writing this while camp meeting is going on at Rock Springs Camp Ground in Denver, NC. In the next week, Ball's Creek Camp Meeting will be in full swing.

Both camp meetings and church camping have been instrumental in the life of the church for over 200 years. The best that I can tell, the very first camp meeting in America was held in 1794 on the grounds that Rehobeth United Methodist Church occupies now.  As I write, I look out on a plot of land that might have been covered with wagons, makeshift tents and dwellings, and a brush arbor where preaching happened that August, 224 years ago.

Here are some of the similarities between camping and camp meeting:

  • Both gather brothers and sisters in Christ for an extended period of time from across a region.
  • Both offer "mountain top" experiences.  Talking with campers and camp meeting enthusiasts, they can usually describe a time when Jesus was made more real to them by participating in one of these programs.
  • Both offer something that the local church can't easily do.  If I take a group of youth for a week at camp, and they spend 16 hours a day in fellowship with other Christian, many hours reading and reflecting on the Bible, much time in prayer and devotion, and the opportunity to discuss the experiences with peers and mentors.  This adds up to 80 hours of intentional learning and formation.  Most churches are lucky if they can provide half of that time for the same youth in a year.  The same opportunities are there at camp meeting.
  • Both offer a cultural get away that is good for anyone who spends most of their days in the hustle and bustle of 21st century living, filled with electronics, constant travel and crowded schedules.  To spend a week at camp and in the woods can be freeing for youth and children who rarely experience it.  To spend a week at camp meeting, hearkening back to simpler days, and spending time with family and friends around preaching, singing and fellowship can also be freeing.
May camp meeting month in this area be restorative for all involved.  May these weeks strengthen the faith of this community, and the participants. May our churches be strengthened in the process.

Comments

  1. Mike, Daddy told me about loading up the wagon to go to Camp Meeting. They took a milk cow for milk for the children, and live chickens for meals. It was such a vacation to them after working so hard bringing in the crops and putting food away for the upcoming winter. Life was not always so easy for them, and they so welcomed this time of year and their experiences there!!

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  2. All I have read about camp meeting, that was the common practice--the lull between summer harvest and fall harvest. It is certainly a different experience in 2018.

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