Come to the Arbor
Updated: Sep 19, 2020
When my family first moved to the small town of Denver, North Carolina, back in the 1970s, it sometimes felt like we’d moved to the back of beyond. We were from the suburbs of Detroit and things sure were different. You couldn’t really call Denver a ‘small town’ back then. It was just a wide spot in the road. There was an elementary school, a volunteer fire department, one supermarket, one bank, and that was about it. Oh, and the campground.
Rock Spring campground is open for only a few weeks each summer, and it’s home to ‘Camp Meeting’. I had no idea what that was. All I saw from the road were these rickety looking shacks with tin roofs. Extremely rustic. I arrived in October, so it was many months before I saw what actually went on at camp meeting. And then I fell in love with it.
Camp Meeting, for the uninitiated, is a gathering of folks for the purposes of religious revival, family reunion, and a bit of small-town carnival. Those shacks are called ‘tents’, because in the early days they actually were tents. At Rock Spring campground, there are three concentric squares of them, enclosing a central grassy area and the arbor.
The arbor is where a lot of what’s important to camp meeting occurs. In the case of Rock Spring, the arbor was originally built in 1832, with hand-hewn timbers. Over time, it has been lovingly restored but maintains its old-fashioned simplicity.
The arbor is the setting for worship services, Bible study, and amazing gospel music. Huge fans stir the warm, humid air and wide roof overhangs protect people from those sudden August downpours. Overflow crowds bring their lawn chairs and fill in the open area around the arbor during services and musical performances. Gospel music groups come from all over the South to perform, and the local homegrown talent performs to great applause. The arbor is a place where multiple generations gather to praise the Lord and renew old ties. It is the beating heart of the campground, and in many ways, it is the beating heart and history of the Denver community.
(The Cockman Family performing in 2017)