Image: Library of Congress: Eastham, MA Camp Meeting, Prayer Meeting in a Tent.
When I left off on Friday, Benjamin Adams had made it to the Eastham Camp meeting and was getting into the spirit of things. On Friday, August 18, he made this notation: “Great meeting in the Bethel tent much the best I have found. Jesus reigned in my soul. A sister Southard of Boston exhorted tremendously - and a coloured man too. My soul was greatly filled.” This camp meeting did not prevent women or people of color from speaking. But note that he uses the term “exhorted,” rather than “preached.” Again, exhortation is a form of encouragement, while preaching goes beyond encouragement and into biblical interpretation. Preaching was the minister’s turf, while lay people were invited to exhort.
On Sunday, August 20, Adams reports that the camp meeting had a Love Feast or an Agape Meal. This ritual has its roots in a Moravian practice. (Moravians were German Protestants who accepted only the Bible as the basis of their faith. John Wesley, Methodism’s founder, had spent some time with the Moravians.) Among Methodist groups, a Love Feast originated in the U.S.A. when ordained clergy were not available to consecrate the bread and cup for the Lord’s Supper. Instead, the Love Feast involves the sharing of water, bread, and the Good News. According to Dale Patterson, “The Love Feast is relational. It is me sharing with others, with you, how God’s grace has been working in my life today….Christian life needs to be a shared life. It’s a life that, I live the spirit and I share with my friends and family in the community. It’s community building.” (“Methodist History”).
At this time I do not know the reason the leaders of the Eastham Camp Meeting chose to use the Love Feast over the Lord’s Supper, since ordained clergy were present. But I do know that the event as described by Adams was “a remarkable affair and was a time of amazing power from on high. Bro. Cushman of Lynn said it was the English language boiled down.” The high spiritual energy continued into the night with Adams making note of an all-night prayer meeting, complete with shouting, which was shorthand for loudly proclaimed agreement with the preacher and/or ecstatic verbalization.
On Monday, 21 August 1854, Adams rose at 3:30 a.m. to prepare his luggage so it could be put on the boat. “The farewell scene was very impressive indeed, not a few good things were said and thought and felt. It was a season worth living a long time.”
One final story: on the way back to Boston on the steamboat St. Lawrence, Adams was asked to preach. “My soul was blessed,” Adams writes, “but the boat soon was in the ground swell and I was getting sick and wound up my sermon to run to the forward deck where flat down I lay. Sea sick two hours and half.” So his old friend sea sickness returned. I have to admit I am impressed that he finished he sermon and did not toss his cookies in front of his audience. How did Adams do it? Total reliance upon God? Will of iron? We’ll never know, but It was an impressive feat, nonetheless.
On a personal note, thank you for visiting the Squeaking Pips website and my blog this past year. While 2019 will be another year of ups and downs – as years always are – I hope and pray that you, like Maggie Blaine Smith, will travel through it with the help of friends and family, no matter how they are defined.
May you have peace. May you have love.
Happy New Year to all!
Benjamin Matthias Adams Papers, 1846-1902. United Methodist Archives and History Center, Drew University, Madison, NJ.
Massachusetts Historical Commission State Survey Team . Historical and Archaeological Resources of Cape Code & the Islands: A Framework for Preservation Decisions. (Massachusetts Historical Commission: 1986, PDF version 2007.)
“Methodist History: The What and Why of Love Feasts.” UMC.org. http://www.umc.org/who-we-are/methodist-history-the-what-and-why-of-love-feasts
Janet Stafford, Squeaking Pips Founder