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HUCKABY: As sure as summer, it's camp meeting time

Darrell Huckaby

Darrell Huckaby

Summer gets here this week. I know. We have been enjoying summer for weeks already, and now the calendar finally catches up with the weather. A lot has changed about summer. The balanced school calendar has made it shorter for most of us. Air conditioning has relegated it to the status of an indoor activity. Not as many of us plant gardens or put up produce for winter. I could go on, but you get my drift. There are a few things about summer that have not changed, however, and I hope they never will.

One of the summer constants in my life is camp meeting. The notion of camp meeting came along in the early 19th century. Those were the 1800s for any of you who have trouble with numbers -- like me. It was part of the Second Great Awakening when Protestant ministers -- particularly in the American South -- made a conscious effort to bring people back to God, as well as recruit new believers.

I'd say it is high time we had a third Great Awakening because if ever a nation needed to draw closer to God it is this one -- and I have been doing my best to get one started. I may buy a tent this fall and set out on my own revival trail. For the time being, however, I will have to be content to preach and teach where I am asked -- but we were talking about camp meeting.

The first one was held at Cane Ridge, Ky., in 1801. The folks up there lived right far apart and it wasn't real convenient to get to a church of a Sunday morning, so a group of preachers decided that they would bring God's Word to the masses. They went to where the people were and preached and taught outside, and thousands of souls were saved.

Camp meetings caught on and all around the South -- and to a lesser extent, the northern states -- great revival meetings were held, right after the crops were laid by, and people would come in their wagons, bringing the entire families, for a week or two of fire-and-brimstone preaching, Bible study, hymn singing and, of course, socializing.

At many sites camp meeting became an annual event and people gathered at the same place at the same time every year. Our own area is dotted with such places -- Shingle Roof down Griffin way, and Indian Springs, near the state park of the same name. Of course there is Salem in Newton County, where my family has tented for generations, and Smyrna Campground in Rockdale County.

Salem is coming up in a few weeks. It has become so ingrained in the culture of my family that we count down to Salem all year. My son met his future bride at Salem and recently proposed to her on the campground. Luckily she said yes or there would have been a lot of very awkward trips past a certain tree near our tent.

Smyrna Camp Meeting is being held this week. It got underway Friday evening. Every campground has its own customs. At Salem we go from Friday until the next Friday and have worship services every morning and evening, plus a morning watch at day break. Our brothers and sisters at Smyrna have evening worship services in their outdoor tabernacle an offer an adult Bible study each morning at 11 -- also under the tabernacle.

Now I told you all of that to tell you this. Starting Monday morning -- at 11 -- I will have the great high honor of teaching the adult Bible lessons at Smyrna Camp Meeting. I will bring a good word to everyone who comes and as I said earlier, if ever a nation needed to hear a good word, it is the one we live in.

I would love for you to come. I know it gets hot, but it is not so bad before noon. I know there are chores to do and television doctors to listen to and a thousand reasons to stay home all week. But there are just as many reasons to venture out, as well. Don't worry if you don't know anyone. The folks at Smyrna are very welcoming. After all, they are letting me come.

You will meet some interesting folks and I will make you laugh every now and then. Most importantly, I will make you think as we get together and try to figure out how we can make a difference in the daily spiritual life of our community and our nation. It might accidentally do you a little personal good, too.

Y'all come. You'll be glad you did. Bring a friend -- or five or six. Who knows? We may change the world. If we only change one life, it will have been time and energy well spent. I know that Smyrna Campground is just as good a place as Cain Ridge, Ky. -- and look what happened there. Two hundred twelve years later and people are still talking about it.

But we are going to be studying Jesus -- and people will talking about him throughout eternity. I hope you'll be one of them.

Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at dhuck008@gmail.com. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.