Revivalists in the US
The Second Great Awakening in America during the 1800s brought forth an immense desire and pushes to reform and revive religions. It was thought that the country had fallen into an abyss of great and perverse sin and moral corruption. The Mormons, AME Church, Unitarian Church, and Shakers were all religions established in America during this time period. One of the greatest religious movements of that particular time in American history was that of the Revivalists.
The Revivalist Group, led by Reverend Charles Grandison Finney, began to preach firey sermons in an evangelical style packed with drama and emotion. Other preachers such as Reverend Lyman Beecher would travel from town to town to spread the word of the Bible. The charismatic Yale educated pastor was known for his booming voice and dramatic sermons. However, the predominant platform for these sermons was the Camp Meeting. Thousands would flock to one and two weeklong camp meetings held deep in the woods all over the United States. The camp meetings first began in Kentucky, but quickly spread north and south in the country as the word of God was delivered in a way never heard from before this time.
The meetings would become mini-villages for a week or two where families would set up tents and small cabins. There would be singing circles, religious classes, and then the night sermons where people would faint at the thrill of being filled with the spirit. Public shaming and a shame bench were fixtures at the meeting. The pastor would preach from a platform above the crowd and give lengthy messages and sermons to the large crowd.
A sinner might be called upon by name to receive prayers from the entire congregation for his transgressions. Those transgressions were always named and greatly detailed. If the group felt the sinner was not remiss or the sin was particularly egregious, then the sinner would be moved to the front shame bench for more intense attention. The women involved in the life of the sinners were asked to give detailed testimonials of the actions and impact on them from the sinner. It was felt that with the help of the community the person who had fallen from grace would have a strong support system to keep him or her from slipping again.
The basic foundations of this intense time in American religion still have roots deeply imbedded in the countryside’s of the South today. For example, in Denver, North Carolina, the August Rock Springs Camp Meeting is a deep and honored event. This camp meeting, just about 40 minutes from bustling Charlotte, North Carolina, was first established in 1794. The cabins to stay in during the worship week are in such high demand that they are willed from generation to generation. Food, worships, religious education, and singing fill the Camp Meeting much like the ones from Charles Grandison Finney, minus the public shaming and the shame bench. In 2014, parts of the 1800 Revivalist tradition still live on in America.