Shingleroof Campmeeting a celebration of faith and family

Jason A. Smith
Times Correspondent

McDonough resident Gene Crumbley says he’s looking forward to welcoming his four kids and their families for the 2015 Encampment at the Shingleroof Campground. He describes the annual event as “a family affair” for those in attendance.

Pat Whitaker (from left), Virginia Forrer, and Kendall Foster were joined by Forrer’s dog Ryley outside one of the cabins at the Shingleroof Campground Saturday. The campground is set to host its annual campmeeting this week. Photo by Jason A. Smith

“My daughter and one son, they make it a point to take their vacation time and stay the whole week,” he says. “We sleep about 14 people out there. At Sunday lunch, we’ll have anywhere from 21-25 people there to eat.”

The Crumbleys are one of numerous families expected to gather in the coming days for the annual campmeeting at Shingle-roof, on Ga. Highway 155 in McDonough. It will be from July 17-23, with worship services each day at 11 a.m., and 7:45 p.m.

Scheduled speakers for the campmeeting are the Rev. Dr. John Ed Mathison, retired senior pastor of Frazer United Methodist Church in Montgomery, Ala., and his brother, the Rev. Dr. George Mathison, senior pastor at Auburn United Methodist Church in Auburn, Ala.

Crumbley, 87, owns one of the oldest tents on the campground. He has participated in the campmeeting nearly every year of his life, except the four years he spent at college and two years in the Navy.

“My old tent was built in 1904, and I claim it as the oldest one that has not had any major repairs -- at least the second-oldest,” says Crumbley. “My mama actually brought me as a baby.”

Crumbley says the older generations aren’t the only ones who look forward to the campmeeting at Shingleroof each year.

“The young people have really taken an interest and come back, and all the tentholders are so happy about that,” says Crumbley. “The younger generation seems to have taken a lot more interest. I think they realize that it’s part of their heritage. It’s going strong, and it’s going to keep going strong.”

Becky Stonecypher of McDonough will celebrate her birthday in Tent No. 34 during the campmeeting. Stonecypher, who will turn 81 on July 21, says she has fond memories of being at Shingleroof with her 10 older siblings through the years.

She says, for her, the campmeeting signifies “love of God, and love of friends and relatives.”

“I really don’t remember ever missing one,” says Stonecypher. “I lived in Atlanta for four years, but we always came home for campmeeting. We feed 70 or more people on Sunday. We have people that come from North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas. It’s just a big, big family reunion.”

Randy Daniel, chairman of the board of trustees for the campground, says his great-great-great grandfather, Wade Hampton Turner, was one of Shingleroof’s original trustees, and that the campmeeting continues to be an important element of worship for Christians in the area each year.

Like Crumbley, Daniel says the campground enables young people to enjoy the campmeeting experience, just as their parents and grandparents did before them.

“The kids enjoy it probably more than anybody,” says Daniel. “They have a lot of freedom out there. We’ve got a walking trail about a mile and a half long, we’ve got a spring there and the kids are able to see friends that they haven’t seen since last year.” Hundreds of people attend services each day during the week-long campmeeting. Sunday services at Shingleroof typically draw more than 1,000 worshippers.

Daniel says he expects a good turnout for the campmeeting again this year.

“Last year, we had some record crowds out there,” he says. “When we outstripped the capacity of the tabernacle, we still had some people in lawn chairs under the shade trees alongside the tabernacle. We’re anticipating another good one this year.”

Phillip Cook is the treasurer of the Shingleroof Campground, which was founded in 1830. His mother, Frances Smith, will attend her 89th campmeeting there this year.

Cook says the campmeeting represents a time of spiritual revival for the families who attend.

“We do things to try to encourage the community at large to come out,” says Cook. “One of the things we try to do is to bring strong, Bible-based preachers. The Bible is the inerrant Word of God, and it should be taught in our daily living.”

Cook says both Mathison brothers have preached during numerous campmeetings at Shingleroof over the years.

“John Ed has probably preached more services at Shingleroof than anybody has,” says Cook. “When we have those two guys preaching, we have really good crowds.”

The Rev. Rick Maeser, senior pastor of the McDonough First United Methodist Church, is the host pastor for the campmeeting for the second straight year. He says he enjoys spending time with those who gather to worship at Shingleroof.

“It is a wonderful community, a very loving and caring group of people of faith who love the worship of God,” says Maeser. “The tentholders are the ones who are the foundation of the community. They’re there the whole week. It’s a place where everybody wants to come and be a part of the worship in that historic tabernacle.”

Maeser also has a message for anyone who hasn’t decided on whether to come to the campmeeting.

“You’ll be glad that you came, whatever service your schedule allows you to attend,” he says. “You’ll be happy that you made the trip and that you sat in the congregation with other worshippers and heard the Word of God proclaimed in that beautiful place. It’s a place where lives have been changed, and the power of Christ continues to change and renew lives in this place and through these services. It will be a blessing to you.”

Services at the campmeeting will also feature songs by local groups and choirs, as well as The Jonesmen Quartet, the In Christ Church worship team, Wanda Joy and Scarlett Temple.

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