Effingham County United Methodists will convene Friday, July 18 for the 224th annual camp meeting. This traditional gathering’s spirit has not been hindered by the fires of General Sherman, war, weather nor struggles of the faithful. It will meet under the tabernacle on South Laurel Street in Springfield, its home since about 1907 when the Brinson Railroad relocated the campground to its present location. The faithful gather in family tents around the campground, forgoing modern-day air conditioning, television and many of the comforts of home for a time of fellowship and renewal.
According to some of the older people I spoke with, the preachers occupied a wooden tent alongside the tabernacle among the family tents for many years. A photograph accompanying this article shows ministers from an Aug. 15, 1936 Springfield Herald in front of their wooden tent. A cinder block tent on the left side of the tabernacle was built for the guests, probably sometime in the 1940s, replacing the wooden structure. The new tent was home to the guest minister and presiding elders from out of town for many years and was known as the “Rev. Thad Nease preachers’ tent.”
This year, the block building has been renovated. It is air-conditioned but does not have bathroom facilities, so it will not serve as an overnight space for the preachers. The updated building will serve as a place of respite for the ministers between services and as a quiet place for prayer, meditation or counseling. An effort is under way to display some of the historical documents and photographs of the campground amassed through the years. People will be able to come in and look at the items on display, which hopefully will be expanded each year.
The namesake of the “preachers’ tent” was Rev. Thaddeus I. “Thad” Nease, who was born on Jan. 11, 1852 to his parents John R. and Mary Shearouse Nease. He and his brothers John Robert, Frederick and Angus Nease built a tent on the campground site in 1908 or 1909. Brother Nease converted at Union Methodist Church (this Methodist church off Low Ground Road in south Effingham has ceased to exist). Granted a license to preach in October 1874, he was admitted into the South Georgia Conference of Methodist Churches at Savannah in December 1874. He married Emma Nease on Christmas Day in 1876, and they had four children: Mrs. W.W. Brunner, Mrs. B.J. Bird, Mrs. L.B. Ackerman and C.L. Nease. His active full-time ministry exceeded 50 years, serving in 17 charges. At the South Georgia Methodist Conference in 1924, Brother Nease was superannuated. In his retirement years, he served for six-and-a-half years as a supply pastor in the Savannah area prior to his death on July 15, 1935. He is buried in the Springfield Cemetery.
Everyone is welcome to attend camp meeting, which opens with an evening service Friday, July 18 at 7:30 p.m. Services will be held daily at 11 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. ending on Wednesday evening. Special music will be presented at 7 p.m. by Joyful Noise on Sunday and Wednesday evening before the evening service. Sunday school will be held Sunday at 10 a.m.
Youth and children’s camp is available by reservation, and daily meals in the dining hall may be purchased in advance.
For further information, visit the Web site and click on the brochure at www.effinghamcampground.com or contact any of the United Methodist churches participating. The Campground Trustees look forward to a wonderful week of fellowship, worship and rejuvenation of the fundamentals of faith for all who participate. Rev. Dr. Ben Martin will be the guest pastor.
This was written by Susan Exley of Historic Effingham Society. Information about Rev. Nease came from the 1935 South Georgia Conference Booklet and Nease photo from Kathy A Whitten. If you have photos, comments or information to share, contact Susan Exley at 754-6681 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.