July 24, 2017
Psalm 95:1-3, 6-8
(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)
Yesterday was the start of an annual religious tradition that goes back in America over 200 years! Sunday services began a fifteen day Campmeeting at Patterson Grove, and old Methodist camp in north-eastern Pennsylvania whose history dates back to the early 1800’s. At the present location of the old Headley sugar maple grove – renamed Patterson Grove – the first campmeeting began in 1868. Next year we will celebrate 150 years at this hallowed place! In 1893 the grove burned to the ground – around 300 cottages! But starting the next spring, the faithful folks began to rebuild. Many of the grove’s current 110 cottages date from the 1890’s! The cottages follow a basic ‘cottage plan’ – twelve by twenty-four feet, two floors, with front and back porches. A few are a bit larger. Because the grove sets on an ancient lake bed, the sandy and rocky ground supports many septic systems, so each cottage has its own bathroom and kitchen facilities. Four deep wells supply the water. There is also a large boarding/dining hall, and the Centenial Shop were many bargains can be found!
My wife Hope and I discovered Patterson Grove 35 years ago. By God’s leading, we bought our first cottage. It required a lot of work, but I am handy, and I insulated it and put in a new bathroom and kitchen. We have bought, repaired and sold three other cottages over the years. Six years ago, we bought our present cottage, twelve by thirty feet, and built around 1930. It has a full kitchen, a bath and a half, two bedrooms, and a storage closet. It also came with a two-carriage garage on the other side of the grove. The cottage is insulated and heated with electic – very comfortable!
I searched for a Scripture that would represent Campmeeting (the theme of this blog), and came up with Psalm 95:1 through 3, and 6 through 8:
Oh come, let us sing to the LORD! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of
our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; let us
shout joyfully to Him with psalms. For the LORD is the great God, and
the great King above all gods….Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
let us kneel before the LORD our Maker. For He is our God, and we are
the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand. Today, if you will
hear His voice; do not harden you hearts….
It was this idea of gathering together for preaching, teaching, and fellowship that resulted in the early campmeetings – the first attributed to the Cane Ridge, Kentucky Campmeeting in August of 1801! From there, the practice of campmeetings caught on, and by 1820, according to The Asbury Journal of Asbury Theological Seminary, 500 campmeetings were being held by Methodists across the country! By 1900 there were thousands! Many, many thousands of people have found Christ or recommitted their lives to Him through the years by attending campmeetings! Today there are relatively few active campmeetings left, Patterson Grove being one of them. A hundred years ago there were up to 10,000 people on our grove during campmeeting, with three services going on at the same time! Today, on a well-attended weekend, up to 400 people fill the old open-sided tabernacle to hear Bible preaching – still a glorious experience!
The Grove sponsors a large and well-planned Vacation Bible School for the two weeks of campmeeting. There are also High School and Junior High youth groups, a Bible study for adults, and other events! I was the Senior High Youth leader for ten years. We had 56 teenagers in our group one year! Thank God I was not in charge of them 24/7! The families of many had their own cottages, and some were local youth. I retired from being youth leader at age 62! Now Hope and I bring our grandchildren and great-grandson!
The land upon which Patterson Grove sits was donated by Colonel Samuel F. Headley. He “…was a well-known lawyer, land-owner, and businessman…and…an active member of the Methodist Episcopal Church.” (Patterson Grove Centennial book, 1868-1968, p.8). When he presented the deed of trust, he told the gathered people:
…I…pray…that this place may be ever watered by the due (dew) of heaven
— that its beauty may remain and that our Children and our Children’s
Children to the latest period of time may meet upon this consecrated spot,
and bow, with humility and in prayer and praise truly worship our Father
and our God, and receive from Him “the fulness of the blessing of the
Gospel of Christ.” (Ibid, p. 9).
The first line of Colonel Headley’s speech is reproduced on a the top horizontal boards of a fence at the grove – a reminder of the eternal purpose of Patterson Grove!
I will write more of my experiences at Patterson Grove over the 35 years that we have there been involved.