Camp Ground Meeting Service August 13
Greg Brooks and Third Degree Bluegrass
Sarrah Ellen McDonald -Tonia Conner
Appalachian Old-Time Music
Betty and Shirley Turner
Children’s Songs and Stories
Amanda Galloway - Connie Chancey
Graham Walker, preacher
Winner of a Sir John Templeton Grant for Science and Theology
Professor of Theology at the McAfee School of Theology
THE MERIDIAN CHORALE AND SOLOISTS
Steven Darsey, Music Director
3:00 Bluegrass, Appalachian Old-Time Music
4:30 Community Sing – Folk Song Favorites
Children’s Songs and Stories at the Spring of Faith
5:00 All Invited to Learn a Service Anthem with the Meridian Chorale
5:30 Opening Service Music—Bluegrass, Old-Time Music
6:00 Camp Meeting Service
On the Grounds of Epworth United Methodist Church
in historic Epworth, in North Georgia’s Blue Ridge Mountains
585 Madola Rd, Epworth, GA.
In case of rain all events will proceed in the adjacent Epworth School
The picturesque Epworth valley was the location of an ancient council-lacrosse ground of the Cherokee Indians. During the 19th century, white settlers began outdoor religious "brush arbor" meetings on the Cherokee gaming grounds. The Fightingtown Camp Meeting drew hundreds each summer to camp and worship. According to one account of the Fightingtown meeting, "at night the camp ground was very beautiful; wagon loads of rich pine knots were hauled to the grounds. Log heaps covered with dirt were made and the pine knots placed on these. When they were lighted it was almost as bright as day." "Fightingtown" is an anglicized, shorthand version of the Cherokee name for the area and nearby creek, which lore says was named for "two frogs fighting each other with stalks of a plant."
The Epworth Church was founded in 1865 and the Epworth School in 1877, where young people could gain an education. The school now sits on the hill, the church in the valley, with the historic meeting grounds between. On the north side is the “Spring of Faith,” which, according to lore and Epworth family Bibles, was fenced off one summer during a camp meeting, depriving hundreds access to their only source of water. That evening campers held a prayer vigil asking God for water. During the night, amid a howling storm, the spring moved onto church property; so, when the morning came, the campers again had access to its waters. The church still does their baptisms and holds Easter sunrise services at those holy waters. The first camp meeting of record there was in 1843. In August of 2013, Meridian Herald and Epworth church presented the first camp meeting held there since the annual Fightingtown camp meetings ceased in the 1890s.
With soul-stirring music ranging from old-time to bluegrass-gospel to classical arrangements of traditional songs, along with compelling preaching, prayer, and spirited hymn singing, this year’s camp meeting service will be held outdoors on Epworth's historic meeting grounds. Graham Walker of the McAfee School of Theology will preach; Steven Darsey and the Meridian Chorale will provide music. Also performing will be the north Georgia bluegrass band Third Edition, Barefoot Creek, and children's music specialist, Amanda Galloway, and children’s storyteller, Connie Chancey, both of The Craddock Center. There will be free gifts for children. The Craddock Center Storey Express for children will also be there giving away free books for children.
With a concert of traditional mountain music beginning at 3:00 p.m., a community sing-along of folk songs, a time for children to sing and hear stories, and a chance for interested folk to sing an anthem with the Meridian Chorale, there is music for everyone to enjoy. The afternoon will culminate in the 6:00 p.m. service, where preaching, prayer, and holy music will bring all attendees together in a great hour worship.
Darsey states: "Some of the songs we will sing have been passed down orally, virtually unchanged from the Great Awakening of the early 19th century. Thus, they are "doubly sacred" to generations of frontier folk who raised their voices to God.
All during the afternoon's activities, drinks and snacks will be available, tours of the historic Epworth Church and grounds will be offered. After the service, watermelon will be served.
Graham Walker is associate dean and the John and Judy Zellars professor of theology at the McAfee School of Theology. Dr. Walker has served as a missionary and held academic posts in the Philippines and has also served pastorates in the United States. An accomplished writer and preacher, his research interests include World Christianity, the Holocaust and Christianity, and science and religion, in which field he received a Templeton research grant.
Steven Darsey is founding artistic director of Meridian Herald. A student of vernacular sacred music, he is also active as a conductor and composer. Since 1986, he has served Atlanta's Glenn Memorial UMC as Director of Music. His book, The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: Music and Worship, was recently published to critical notice.
Camp meetings began in the 19th century south, when farmers, after the crops were laid by, would go "camping" with their families and friends for a week or more. The days and evenings were filled with fiery preaching and impassioned singing. Camp meetings spread throughout the south and became an integral part of the region's cultural and spiritual traditions. Many continue today, and the participants look forward with loving devotion to the familial, social and spiritual renewal of their annual camp meetings.
This service is presented by Meridian Herald and hosted by Epworth UMC, Byron Ahrens, pastor. www.historicepworthumc.org