McDONOUGH — In just a few days, children will again run and dip their toes into the cold water spring flowing through this hallowed piece of land in McDonough. Many children will be playing in that same natural spring where their ancestors once drew water for drinking and cooking during what became, for some, the highlight of the year. And like those generations before them, children and their families this year will hear preachers talk about God’s love, forgiveness and salvation during camp meeting at the historic Shingleroof.
As Henry County celebrates its 200th anniversary, 2021’s Shingleroof is being called by organizers the Henry County Bicentennial Campmeeting.
“Shingleroof started at least as early as 1830, maybe earlier, so we have been there for most of the 200 years,” according to county historian and author Gene Morris. “We were not able to gather in 2020, due to pandemic restrictions, so people are chomping at the bit to get back on the old campgrounds.”
Greg Moss has attended camp meeting each of his 56 years on Earth, and he can count on one hand how many days his 24-year-old daughter, Hannah has missed. This will be the first time his 22-year-old son Haydon will not be able to attend. But Moss and his wife Mary Jane will be there among the worshipers and family, many of whom are the same people.
“My aunt has a tent, and we all stay as a family,” he said. “My brother and I, we have a house full. I’d have to stop and count to see how many’s in there.”
Some families have cabins on the property, which they call “tents” in homage to their ancestors who actually stayed in tents on the same property during camp meeting time.
“It was such a special place for me growing up, I wanted my kids to have that same experience,” Moss said. “Both of them love it so much... It doesn’t matter what part of the year you go out there, there is that presence and it’s got to be the presence of God... It’s one of the most peaceful places I’ve ever been in my life.”
Moss, who does remodeling work, attends Rock Springs Congregational Methodist Church in Milner. He tells about recently stopping to talk to a man who was surveying the Shingleroof property for stormwater drainage for the state of Georgia and the man told him he could “sense” something there.
“I told him it’s the same hope, the same feeling I get when I come out there,” Moss said. “It’s just a peaceful place. I hope when we get to heaven, it’s like it is there.”
Moss loves the history and talking about the days when folks worked to get their crops in, then loaded up their horse and wagon, pulled their cows behind them and brought their chickens along as they pitched tents to spend time worshiping at Shingleroof.
Families still pack up and head off to camp meeting, and Moss looks forward to again being with relatives and friends.
“Usually, my mama and aunt are on the front porch,” he says about the cabin. “My dad died when I was 10, but he loved that place tremendously. He was James Moss and my mama is Dianne Moss. My mama’s sister is my Aunt Sylvia Crumbley... My uncle, Richard Crumbley was a big influence on us staying out there. He died awhile back.”
Ginger Irby, who has been on the Shingleroof Board of Trustees for nine years, is also looking forward to camp meeting next week. She doesn’t know how many generations of her family have worshiped at the campground, but said her grandparents, Paul and Laura Cates built the family tent in 1960. Her parents are Paul and Jinny Cates.
“We always have a big Sunday lunch with lots of family,” Irby said. “We sit on the porch and talk with friends you don’t get to see a lot. It’s kind of like a family reunion on top of a friends’ reunion on top of church with a lot of things combined.”
Irby, who works for the McDonough CPA firm Hargrave, Freeman & Leto, attends McDonough First Presbyterian Church and said she looks forward to the music and preaching.
“There’s a lot of good music — good old revival hymns and even the youth love to sing,” she added. “It’s different from the contemporary services. It’s back to the old gospel hymns.
“...I’ve been going to it all my life and my parents and grandparents have gone there and my kids love it. It’s tradition. It’s just an exciting time.”
Irby said her husband Robert and their children Rollins and Candler will join other relatives, including her Uncle Charlie Cates and Chase and Darian Cates, for a time of family worship and togetherness.
“It’s hard to explain to people, but you kind of get back to simple living,” Irby said. “There are sawdust floors, no air conditioning... but it’s a great place to worship and get closer to God, your family and friends. It’s important because for me, I’m passing it along to my children. My grandparents passed it along to me.”
Sophe Pope has also been attending camp meeting all her life.
“(I am) following in the footsteps of generations past,” she said. “I cherish the singing of old hymns, front porch time with family and friends from near and far and an opportunity to totally unplug. Watching my four little girls run around and experience the joy of camp meeting is so special and heartwarming and is always a sweet reminder of God’s grace.”
Pope said her husband, Dusty also grew up going to camp meeting, which “holds a special place for him.” The Popes are the parents of four daughters ages 8, 6, 4 and 2.
Many families will carry on those old traditions while other families new to Shingleroof Campmeeting will start making traditions of their own. Shingleroof, Henry County’s Bicentennial Campmeeting, will begin Friday, July 16 and end Thursday, July 22, with services at 7:45 each evening and at 11 a.m. on Saturday through Thursday.
Shingleroof Campmeeting is interdenominational. The evening community revival services will include preaching and special music, with the Rev. Nate Keeler bringing the message Friday evening through Sunday evening. Rev. Jason Minter will preach Monday morning and the Rev. Dr. John Ed Mathison will preach Monday evening. Doug Stroup will serve as worship leader with Amy Stroup as pianist for the week. Mark Miller will serve as worship leader Sunday morning, and Chris Harris will lead worship on Friday evening. Other special music includes Revelation United from Fairview Baptist, The Jonesmen, Elizabeth Johnson, McDonough Presbyterian, Wanda Joy and Danny Howell, and other soloists and groups.
Keeler is the lead pastor at Wilmington’s Brandywine Valley Baptist Church in Delaware. He and his wife, Shannan, met while at Philadelphia Biblical University (now Cairn University). They have two children, Nathan and Aidan. Before being called as the senior pastor of BVBC, Keeler was an investment adviser in Washington, D.C., for two years and on staff at McLean Bible Church in Northern Virginia for eight years. He received his master’s in Christian Leadership at Dallas Theological Seminary.
Minter has been serving at Faith Presbyterian Church since May 2016. He received his bachelor of arts degree in Theology from the Baptist College of Florida and his master in divinity degree from Columbia Theological Seminary. He is currently working on his doctorate degree from Reformed Theological seminary in the area of reformed expository preaching. He has 15 years of ministry experience both in student and pastoral ministry. He and his wife of 16 years have five daughters.
Mathison has become a regular at Shingleroof, and retired in 2008, after 36 years of serving as the senior minister of Frazer Memorial United Methodist Church. He is currently leading a non-profit ministry designated as the John Ed Mathison Leadership Ministries and speaks at churches, conferences, and leadership training programs on a local, national and global scale.
Stroup, the song leader for the week, is the assistant pastor at Crossroad Bible Church in Fort Valley, where he also serves as worship leader, teaches young adults and works with senior adults. He is a filmmaker and serves as the senior director of Make It Clear Studio where he produces faith-based films. He and his wife and seven children perform as The Stroup Family. The worship leader has also been part of the Peach State Quartet.
The dining hall will not be open this year, but food trucks will be on site some evenings from 5-7 p.m., including Gezzos, Waffle House, Sweet Auburn BBQ and The Varsity.
Located on the corner of Ga. Highway 155 and Campground Road in McDonough, Shingleroof Campground is situated on 100 acres of land, which historical records show were purchased in 1831. However, it is believed campmeeting was organized several years before that. Surrounded by woods, Shingleroof also offers The Ten Commandments Trail, a 1.5-mile nature trail that circles the campground. Along the way, walkers and hikers can follow a study of the Ten Commandments, as well as sit and meditate. The trails are open to the public during daylight hours.
For more information and a detailed list of campmeeting events, visit www.shingleroof.org.