Cherokee’s 181-year tradition is thriving.
A step back in time is an accurate description of camp meeting, a Southern tradition that brings families together for more than a week of uninterrupted fellowship and meaningful worship.
Folks yearning for that simpler life can experience it July 12-21, when the faithful ignore the heat and make the pilgrimage to Holbrook Campground for a 10-day outdoor revival.
The campground is an oasis of green space in north Cherokee, east of Canton and 1 mile south of busy Ga. 20, toward Cumming. More accurately, it is a 40-acre, heavily shaded link to the past.
It’s a tradition that’s repeated at historic sites, some 200 years old, across North Georgia this time of year. Camp meetings have played an important role in the history of Methodism. In the early church, there was typically only one preacher, known as a circuit rider, to serve various congregations. For many years at camp meeting, the preacher’s only compensation was board for himself and his horse. Collections were not taken.
Cherokee County’s Holbrook Campground was founded in 1839. Just across the street from Macedonia United Methodist Church, there is an open-air arbor on a wooded lot where visiting pastors deliver nightly sermons. The arbor is surrounded by a circle of 75 cabins, known as “tents,” ranging from small buildings with sawdust floors and no bathrooms to air-conditioned cottages with multiple bedrooms and bathrooms.
Children ride their bikes or swing on tire swings on the property while the adults, often several generations of families, relax in rockers and porch swings after home-cooked meals.
Holbrook got its start when Jesse Holbrook, a blacksmith, received 40 acres of land in exchange for shodding a man’s horse. He donated the property to the Methodist Conference to be used as a campground, and the first services were held in the open under the trees. The first arbor built was too small, and a second one that took its place was damaged in a storm in 1889. The current structure was built in 1890.
Camp meetings were traditionally a time of repentance, revival and reconnecting with God and neighbors. Generations later, worshippers no longer tie their cows to horse-drawn wagons to make the journey to camp meeting. In many cases, the campgrounds are surrounded by upscale neighborhoods and pricey retail centers. And, most camp meetings have their own websites.
Virtually everything surrounding these campgrounds has changed dramatically since their inception. But, the message, and the purpose for gathering, remains the same.
Camp Meetings in North Georgia
2415 Holbrook Campground Road, has an Alpharetta address, but is located in Cherokee County. July 12-21. With guest ministers Danny Bennett from Brookwood Baptist in Forsyth County and Glenn Hannigan from Ebenezer United Methodist Church – Milton. Song leader will be retired Baptist pastor Newt Hendrix. Daily worship is held at 11 a.m., and 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. www.holbrookcampmeeting.com.
2301 Roswell Road, Marietta, across from East Cobb United Methodist. July 12-21, in its 182nd year. Preachers for the daily services are Dr. Charles Sineath, Rev. Tom Tanner, Rev. Mike Mozley, Dr. Vic Bledsoe, Rev. Ben Cathey, Rev. Justin Holcomb, Rev. Tom Atkins and Rev. Jim Higgins. Ice cream social at 9:30 p.m. July 16.
3940 Salem Road, Covington, was founded in 1828. This year’s camp meeting dates are July 12-19. Featuring guest speakers, Rev. Bill Britt and Rev. Carlos Sibley. www.salemcampmeeting.org.
105 Lumpkin Campground Road, Dawsonville. Established in 1830, this year’s camp meeting dates are July 22-28. Pastor’s names weren’t announced at press time. www.lumpkincampground.org.
Part of Pine Log United Methodist Church at 3497 Pine Log Road, Rydal. Celebrating its 185th year with services July 23-29. Pastor’s names were not announced at press time. www.pinelogumc.com.