Shingleroof Campmeeting

    

Ten Generations of Worship in the Pioneer  Tradition
Located in Henry County, Georgia U.S.A
Documented by Gene Morris Jr.
Henry County Historian
A Local Legacies Project Submitted to
The U.S. Library of Congress in 1999

 

Chapter Ten

The Spirit of Campmeeting

The world has seen profound changes since 1831 however the following observations by Nancy Paul Miller, in a paper she wrote while a student at the College of St. Francis in 1994 point up some of the reasons campmeeting has survived and conquered many of these cultural changes, she wrote: "Vacation is a precious time. People ask what I am going to do on my vacation. I tell them I am going to Shingleroof Campground in McDonough, GA. There is no air conditioning, no TV's, no VCR's nor computers. Some children bring their small electronic games, but usually do not play with them unless it is raining and they don't want to go out and play in the rain and puddles with the rest. Campmeeting is a kind of time out week, different from all the other weeks and holidays because my mind and living are slowed down and far away from so many of the noisy and busy distractions and demands of the late 20th century life. The porch is a special place at each tent. We watch the children and adults play. We see the water balloon battles, the making of mud pies, volleyball, softball games, and those who dare may swing on a rope swing with a plank for a seat Children from all over the campground stand in line to swing up into the tree leaves. On the porch we shell peas and string beans. Visitors walk from porch to porch joining in on the shelling and story telling. There may be ten to twenty or more living in one tent with one bathroom and shower. The bedrooms have two double beds so there may be six in a room. There is a hotel that was built this year without having to borrow money, but by donations and memorials. The hotel is used for reunions during the year and groups come during campmeeting to eat before or after services. It only has two rooms now for guests to spend the night. They may add more if needed. So what brings us to campmeeting? I Feel it's the 'spirit of competing' and kinship. The religious services, the openness of the services, being out of doors, gives us the feeling of being in God's presence. Being in a place special to our ancestors. Kinship is very important. We go our separate ways during the year, rarely seeing some, but for that one week we become close again and feel it helps us stay close though we are far apart. We learn of our heritage from stories passed down from the older generations. Those we never met we feel we know."

We can see that 17 decades after its founding in the Georgia wilderness, Shingleroof is still identified by the recurring themes of religious devotion, love of heritage and cultural preservation. During the 1990's, Henry County has experienced massive growth and development due to its proximity to Atlanta. The population of Henry County has increased from 20,000 in 1970, to 40,000 in 1980, to 60,000 in 1990, to over 110,000 in 1999. The U. S. Census Bureau ranks Henry County, Georgia as the fourth fastest growing county in the United States, but, so far, Campmeeting has coexisted well with the growth around it. Many of the children at Shingleroof in the 1990's are the tenth consecutive generation of their family to worship God on these ancestral grounds.

In a speech he gave at his church in 1997 Bill Chick sums up the things which make campmeeting so dear to our hearts: "Campmeeting is a time when you get to sit in a rocking chair on the porch and hear stories, a chance to take your shoes off and dig your feet in the sawdust, to walk around the campground, visiting with old friends and making new ones: it's getting to eat some of the best meals ever prepared; it's watching my son play with children of the people I played with when I was his age; it's hot August days and cool clear nights; it's sitting in a crowded tabernacle fanning yourself with a funeral home fan, singing old hymns like, "When the Roll is Called Up Yonder" and "Love Lifted Me"; it's a chance to hear some wonderful preaching and some beautiful music; and a chance to worship God together as a family. Campmeeting takes us back to a simpler time; just good old-fashioned Religion on what I know is Holy Ground. 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." 

End of Chapter Ten

 

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Created by Scott Rowan    Copyright (c) June 01, 2000.  All Rights Reserved.