By Jessica Farrish
“O sinners, let's go down,
Let's go down, come on down.
O sinners, let's go down,
Down in the river to pray.”
— Allison Krauss, “Down to the River to Pray”
When Hollywood brought “river baptisms” to the silver screen in the 2000 blockbuster movie “O Brother, Where Art Thou?,” many modern Americans got their first taste of “old-time religion” from George Clooney, John Turturro and Tim Blake Nelson, the actors who played the Depression-era jail-breakers.
Even in southern West Virginia, where religious roots run deep, most mainstream church-goers have never “gone down to the river to pray.”
But Linda and Jeff Chambers of Fayetteville think the Greenbrier River is the perfect place to have a revival, and they’re inviting everyone to come down to the river.
For the past four years, the Chambers and around 300 worshippers have gathered on the Greenbrier River at Camp Summers 4-H Camp near Hinton for a three-day revival that might have even inspired Clooney’s character Everett McGill to be baptized.
The revival is filled with home-cooked food, spirituality, camping and a tent for visiting evangelists.
Jeff Chambers, Linda and four board members first organized “Camp Meeting on the Greenbrier” in 2009 to carry on a 60-year tradition that was in danger of ending.
Peyton Camp Meeting, a three-day revival that had operated each year since 1949, had closed that year, Jeff Chambers reported.
The Chambers family had been active at Peyton’s Camp Meeting, and Chambers and his son, Keith, had helped set up the Peyton camp for several years.
“There’s just none of (the camps) starting any more, and the ones that end ... that’s just a thing that’s going by the wayside,” explained Chambers. “A couple of older people from the (Peyton) camp came by one night at my mailbox and said, ‘We don’t want to see the camp end.’”
The couple asked Chambers to help, and so “Camp Meeting on the Greenbrier” was born.
For the uninitiated, Linda Chambers explained, the river revival offers church services every day, and she said she’s seen God move in powerful ways at the tent services — proving that worship doesn’t just happen on Sunday mornings.
Outside of spiritual food, there’s the kind that sticks to your ribs, too.
“What everybody loves about our camp meeting is its home-cooked food,” she said “In the morning, it’s country-style biscuits and gravy, potatoes, cinnamon rolls and the whole shebang.”
Dinner guests may see turkey dinners on their plates one evening, followed by pork chops and mashed potatoes the next.
“It’s real, homecooked food,” assured Linda Chambers.
Kids’ and family activities are part of the festivities, and Scott Vannatter of Oak Hill, The Mark Dubbeld Family of Roanoke, Va., and Anchormen from Ashboro, N.C., will provide music.
The price is unbeatable, Chambers reported. “It’s free to the public,” said Chambers. “Anybody that wants to come, they can come to the services or come to stay the whole time,” he said.
Campers can choose from dorms or some 20 camp hook-up sites, said Chambers.
“We have set up a 40 foot by 80 foot tent, with 300 chairs,” he said. “Saturday night, we expect around 250 to 300 people.”
The Rev. David Gallimore and Dr. Randy Kennedy, both international evangelists based in Georgia, will deliver messages.
The Rev. Alan Gallimore of Oak Hill will also speak Friday morning.
The Rev. Jerry Beers of Pennsylvania will direct the youth program at the event, Chambers reported.
A “Singspiration” will be held Sunday at 2 p.m.
The “River Revival” begins Thursday, with church service at 7 p.m. Services are held at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. daily and continue through a final service and picnic Monday morning.
Donations are taken at the event but are not mandatory for entrance.
Those wanting more information may contact Chambers at 304-574-4274 or visit the Facebook page “Camp Meeting on the Greenbrier.”
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