Visiting childhood camp meeting

Published 10:08 am Thursday, June 18, 2009

I had a blast from my past Tuesday night. For only about the third time in the last 20 years, I went to the Eastern North Carolina Assemblies of God camp meeting on Cooper Hill Road in Windsor.

My wife, Lyndal, and my son, Alex, made their first-ever trip to camp meeting and they had a good time as well, but it was different for me because I spent so much of my youth under that old tabernacle.

I remember when I was a young person – probably from about five or six years old – we would gather up and we would go to camp meeting in the summer and the fall. My mother, Sylvia, wouldn’t let us miss many nights during camp meeting and I don’t remember minding at all. That continued for many years.

One of my favorites back in those days was Pastor B.H. Clendennen. He was – and is as I understand it – one of those old-time gospel preachers. He told it like it was and he never held back one iota.

The speaker Tuesday night was the Pastor of Harvest Time Assembly of God in Asheville, the Rev. Darrell McClaren. While I don’t remember him speaking at the Eastern NC camp, I do remember him preaching at Askewville Assembly of God when I was a young boy. I always went to hear him preach and enjoyed it greatly, just as I did Tuesday night.

The time gathering under the old tabernacle – which still has sawdust floors and old wooden pews – was a lot of fun and a time of reflection for me. I remember well the days we would come out in the heat and try to bear it. I also remember my grandmother, the late Vivian White, having mom pull the car close and sitting in the car to listen to the music and preaching.

In my mind, very little has changed. Maybe the crowd isn’t quite as big as it once was and some of the old-time preachers are gone on or not as involved as they once were, but there is still a feeling of being part of something that few have the opportunity to experience.

In a day and time when we’re all about modern conveniences – and I’m as guilty as anyone – it’s a nice change of pace to go sit on those pews and put your feet in the sawdust.

It’s nice to sing old-time gospel songs and hear preachers preach the way they did back in the early days of the Assembly of God church. I enjoyed the time visiting under that old tabernacle and I’m planning on spending more nights in the next two weeks doing the same.

I also like having my son growing up knowing what it’s like to worship God outside in the elements with the sawdust under his feet. I want him to experience some of the same things I did when I was a child and I hope that he’ll be bringing his children back many years from now.

Thadd White is Staff Writer and Sports Editor of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald. He can be reached via email at or by telephone at 332-7211.