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The spirit of campmeeting
Families bask in the weeklong religious revival
A-Campmeeting  pic 5
Mardie Townley gets home-cooked lasagna ready for dinner with extended family and friends during Lumpkin Campmeeting last week. - photo by David Renner Dawson Community News

Click here for a campmeeting photo gallery Dawson Community News reporter/photographer David Renner snapped at Lumpkin Campground last week.


Mardie Townley remembers the Thursday night of Lumpkin Campmeeting eight years ago like it was yesterday.

During his sermon, Chad Rogers, a local Baptist preacher, had told the congregation to search their hearts for the truth they had been saved.

As several people stood and walked toward the front of the wooden arbor where services are held each night of campmeeting, Townley couldn't find that truth in her heart.

"I couldn't stand there and say that I knew I was going to heaven if I died. I went up and prayed, and that night I was saved," she said last week.

For those who attend the weeklong religious revival each summer, it's experiences like Townley's that show the true spirit of campmeeting.

"It's a lot of memories made for my kids and that means the world to me," Townley said as she prepared lasagna for three generations of family. "It's a family event. We go to church together, just making memories."

Her aunt Judy Matheson calls the 185-year-old tradition that allows the entire family to stay together for the week in rustic wooden tents, "a family gathering that's never forgotten."

"We've got seven bedrooms upstairs, a full bath and a bedroom downstairs," Matheson said. "We're all here together, cooking, eating, talking, being together. There's nothing like it in the world. I don't even want to think about it if I couldn't come to campmeeting."

Colleen Slaton, whose family tent features wood planks and a bench that date back to the late 1800s or early 1900s, feels the same.

"If you've ever been to campmeeting, you don't miss campmeeting," she said. "It's just a retreat where you can go back in time and live like I did when I was a little girl."

In the early days, families would pack up their horse drawn, covered wagons with blankets, pots and pans, canned foods, cows for milk, live chickens for fresh eggs and supper, hay for the animals and enough pies and cakes to last a week.

Then they'd spend the week renewing friendships, catching up with family and rejoicing in the word of God.

"You feel like you're in another place when you're here," said Anna Byrd, whose family has deep roots at Lumpkin Campground. "When I get here, I don't want to leave."