We transition this week from the Reformation of sixteenth-century western Europe to the movement of revival in early nineteenth-century United States.
Charles Yrigoyen, Jr. writes, “The most prominent religious development in early nineteenth-century America was the Second Great Awakening. This movement of religious fervor spread across the nation…While its intensity and accompanying phenomena varied in different sections of the nation, its major thrust was to convert sinners. In revivals and camp meetings throughout the country, there was an unprecedented effort to bring the wayward to an experience of salvation. Thousands of people, under the direction of preachers and lay leaders, experienced conversion (United Methodism in America Ed. by John G. McEllhenney, 69).
At its most basic level, conversion involves changing beliefs. We all experience conversions in our own lives. We might be converted in our understandings of politics or faith or any number of things. Think of a time in which your beliefs were converted. What changed? How? Why? When?
Our worship this Sunday will be rooted in the camp meetings and revival movement and Romans 8.14-16.
Fanny Lewis describes a camp meeting near Baltimore in a letter written in 1803 this way: I hasten to give you some account of our glorious camp-meeting; but alas! all description fails…The meeting began on Saturday, and was very lively…On Sunday morning, Mr. S___ called his family to prayer-meeting. At ten o’clock public preaching began, and great was the power of God…On Monday morning there was such a gust of the power of God that it appeared to me the very gates of hell would give way. All the people were filled with wonder, love and praise. Mr. S___ came and threw himself in our tent, crying, “Glory! glory! this is the happiest day I ever saw.” He says he never knew such a continual power and increase of the love of God for three days and nights…When I left the place, I cannot describe the emotion I felt. It was something like parting with all that was dear to me (letter recorded in The Methodist Experience in America: A Sourcebook, 150-151)
Have you ever felt “filled with wonder, love and praise”? If so, what was the experience like? If not, can you imagine ever being moved in such a way? What would prevent you from being moved in such a way?