Photo: Andrew McMurtrie. Davis Chappell, pastor of the Lawrenceville First United Methodist speaks to his congregation during the churches 179th annual Campmeeting Thursday in Lawrenceville. The campmeeting began on Sunday, July 17th with services each evening and ran through Friday, July 22nd. The event features music, preaching and Bible study. The Campground was established as holy ground for Christian worship and fellowship in 1832 and has held a weeklong camp there every year since 1833, excluding 1861-1865 because of the Civil War.
LAWRENCEVILLE -- If you wander the campgrounds of Lawrenceville First United Methodist Church, it may feel like you stepped back in time.
Cabins built of faded, gray wood make up the perimeter of sacred grounds where Christians hold annual revival services every July.
A church building -- or arbor -- sits at the center, where nightly services of praise and worship lit up the night last week, with more than 600 people attending the annual week-long gathering.
With sawdust floors and acoustic guitars, services in the arbor reinforce one of the very ideas that's kept the tradition alive more than 179 years: Less is more.
"It's still going very strong, and part of the appeal is the simplicity of it," said Davis Chappell, pastor at the church.
Established in 1832 by five Lawrenceville men, the property was purchased for about $50, "which was a lot of money at the time," Chappell said.
He said the event used to be held at a different point in the calendar year more in line with the era.
"In those early days, being an agricultural society, when folks finished with harvest in late August and early September they would come together and bring their families out for a week of worship."
Worship was one of many aspects that brought people out, and continues to draw them today, according to Dana Goodwin of Gwinnett County.
"It's a real treasure," Goodwin said. "In these times of 'rush, rush, rush' you can get away from everything for a week."
Added Goodwin: "It's like going camping, but with spiritual aspects."
Goodwin grew up coming to Campmeeting with her family, who moved to Gwinnett County in the 1940s.
Now, her college-aged children attend the weekly gathering with her and her husband.
Having family with her makes the week of revival enjoyable, but when you're at Campmeeting "everybody feels like family."
"It's a place where you can bring your kids and turn them loose, and everybody watches them. ... You don't have to worry," Chappell said.
In the end, what it all comes down to is fellowship, he added.
"People need that," he said. "Especially in this day and age ... people are really desperate for human interaction without being in a hurry and the simplicity of this place takes you back to the basics."
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