Shingleroof Campmeeting continues worship tradition

By Jason A. Smith
Times Correspondent

Elsie Reader of McDonough loves coming to the annual campmeeting at Shingleroof Campground.

She lives near the campground and has a cabin there, where she enjoys reconnecting with old friends and hearing good preaching.

Families attend services at a previous campmeeting. Shingleroof Campmeeting will be held July 14-20 with services at 11 a.m. and 7:45 p.m. each day. File photo

“It’s a lot like a family reunion because a lot of us go every year,” said Reader, 88. “The other part of it is, it’s always been a part of my life. I’m a Methodist, and I just enjoy it.”

Shingleroof Campground, at the intersection of Highway 155 and Campground Road, will host the 2017 Campmeeting July 14-20. Services are scheduled for 11 a.m., and 7:45 p.m., each day.

The Shingleroof Campmeeting began in 1830 and is the longest-running religious revival in Henry County. Reader said she has fond memories of worshipping with others at the campground, despite not having the conveniences of today.

“When I was a child, I can remember having a wood stove,” she said. “I can remember when we got electricity and running water. That was a big thing. It’s a very unique situation where people have been carrying on the tradition for years.”

County Historian, Gene Morris, Jr., has attended the campmeeting throughout his life and now serves as a trustee at the campground. He said the campmeeting enables the faith community to escape the hustle and bustle of a busy world and concentrate on worship.

“It may seem odd in some ways that families have gathered one week a year since 1830 to sing and praise God and worship and share in being part of a simple community of believers,” said Morris, 56. “We’re not perfect, Shingleroof is not perfect, our lives are not perfect; but, for this one week each year we get to retreat from the modern world and focus on God and one another. This spiritual revival and refreshment is a good and healthy thing. Blessings are many and worries are few. Living simply and spending time with God and one another in a natural setting is a special kind of medicine that heals a world of ills.”

Beckie Stanton Folkes, 58, of McDonough also has a lifelong connection to Shingleroof, going back seven generations. Her father, William “Jeff” Stanton, was the longest-running tenter at the campground during his lifetime until he passed away in 2014 at age 93.

Folkes said some of her best childhood memories came during campmeeting and remain with her today.

“It’s just like a step back in time, to me,” she said. “You kind of have to be raised in it to understand it. You have that connection with all these friends and cousins all their lives.”

Rick Maeser, senior pastor at McDonough First United Methodist Church, is preparing to host his fourth campmeeting at Shingleroof. He said it is a privilege to serve “where the gospel is powerfully proclaimed and hymns of the church are sung with great spirit.”

“It is a family atmosphere of those who have tents, and members of surrounding churches and the community are full of Christian love and fellowship,” said Maeser.

Additional preachers for the week include: the Rev. Dennis Rouse, senior pastor of Victory World Church in Norcross; the Rev. Dr. Mel Blackaby, senior pastor at First Baptist Church of Jonesboro; the Rev. Dr. Jack Bartlett, of Community Bible Church in Stockbridge; and the Rev. Dr. Leslie Holmes, provost and professor of ministry and preaching at Erskine Theological Seminary in Due West, S.C.

This weekend will mark Holmes’ first campmeeting at Shingleroof, though he has participated in campmeetings at other locations since launching his ministry 45 years ago. Such occasions, he said, give worshippers “a new opportunity to see God at work saving and restoring lives” and to fellowship with each other.

Holmes said there is a reason that campmeetings continue to draw interest and attention from the faith community.

“It is, in my opinion, our humanly insatiable desire to know God,” he explained. “In the words of the French philosopher Blaise Pascal, ‘There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man (or woman).’ I call it ‘the infinite abyss.’ As people, we try in vain to fill this vacuum with all kinds of things, but the help that we need is not there. Some try to fill it with power, popularity, possessions, alcohol or drugs, sex, even religion, but none of these can adequately satisfy this heart vacuum. It can be filled fully and satisfied completely by a living, personal relationship with God who comes to us in Jesus Christ. Campmeet-ings are a uniquely American southern way of helping people to find or refill the satisfaction for that longing.”

Music will be provided by soloists and groups including The Jonesmen Quartet, The Peach State Quartet, and Bear Creek Revival. Doug Stroup, now in his second year as song leader at Shingleroof, said the campmeeting offers “a very real, fun, heartfelt atmosphere of worship.”

“Most of those in attendance come with hearts that are ready to worship the Lord through music and to receive from the preacher as he shares the Word of God,” said Stroup. “It is an honor to have the opportunity to stand before the Lord and before the congregation and worship Him together through music. Hearing all the voices joining as one lifting up the Lord together is especially fulfilling.”

Marianna Rowan Brown of McDonough attended her first Shingleroof Campmeeting when she was five months old and has continued to do so ever since. Now 65, Brown said the campground is “a wonderful place of Christian worship” that she can count on each year.

“It’s one place that has never changed at all over these many years,” said Brown. “It’s a place where I feel at peace in an ever-changing world.”

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