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Exploring tradition at convention
Doris Derrick2c Mitchell n Joy Weitman2c Pastor Smith 1
Doris Derrick, Joy and Mitchell Weitman and Pastor Ronald Smith gather on the grounds to march in at the Sunday school convention. - photo by Photo provided

On Sunday, May 4, the bell will toll for the 135th annual Sunday School Convention at the Effingham Methodist Campground in Springfield. Fifteen Sunday schools met on May 28, 1879, when Rev. P.H. Crumpler, a Methodist minister, is given credit for organizing the interdenominational gathering.

Tradition was that if you got new clothes, you wore them at Sunday School Convention. A new dress or straw hat was icing on the cake for the day. In the early days, the convention met on Wednesday and it was an Effingham County school holiday. Now the convention is held on the first Sunday in May.

Each Sunday school marches in when the congregation is called beginning at 9:45 a.m., proudly bearing a banner. Seating is done in the order of denomination of the year. This year will be Methodist year and the president will be Whit Myers. Guest speaker will be David Seyle, president of Andrew College. During the morning, each Sunday school goes to the stage and sings a selection according to the schedule. The speaker for the day brings a message and special music is planned.

In times gone by, groups sold dinners, home-churned ice cream and tubs of ice were filled with glass-bottled sodas for sale. Some church groups brought a basket lunch to share, and that tradition is still carried on today where everyone is invited to gather on the campground after the singing and preaching are over for the day and share a meal.

In the early years, the young people went into Springfield and ball games were a favorite activity in the afternoon while most of their elders attended the business meeting or had fellowship. During the years of the Mars Theatre, many went to the movies that afternoon.

This remarkable tradition is taking place Sunday, May 4 at 10 a.m. Everyone is invited to attend. All Sunday schools are all welcome to participate. For more information, contact secretary Stuart Exley at 754-3402.

This was written by Susan Exley of Historic Effingham Society. If you have photos, comments or information to share, contact her at 754-6681 or