In This Sacred Place: St. Paul AME Campground
(narrator) At first glance, one may be baffled by the circle of seemingly primitive wooden
structures which ring a central tabernacle.
This is the Saint Paul AME campground, one of four camps still active in the Lowcountry
today. For 51 weeks of the year, silent and deserted,
these old “tents,” as they are called, stand unguarded and unused,
quietly awaiting the one week when the camp meeting returns.
We thank You, God, for this preaching privilege. (male speaker) It started back in the late
1800s, when our foreparents were going then,
up until now. You know, I’m 53 years old,
and I was born into it. § Oh, something on the inside §
§ working on the outside. § § Oh, what a change in my life! §
§ Something on the inside § § working on the outside. §
§ Oh, what a change in my life! §§ (male speaker) It’s something that we really
enjoy. Everybody looks forward to camp meeting.
If you move from South Carolina, move to New York,
you come back in the month of October to celebrate camp meeting
because it’s just a great tradition within our families.
We went from generation to generation. I’m born and raised in New York City.
My father is from St. Paul, and I came down to visit him this summer,
and this has been very… enlightening and rich.
I get to see all of my family here, because you have the fellowship outside,
and you have the ability to just mingle and be with people 24/7.
Well, my family’s been coming ever since– I’m over 50 years old–
I don’t like telling my age, but ever since I was a little girl.
§ (Berry-Brown) It started last Sunday, which
was October 9th. We started out with the sing-out festivity,
and we have choirs and groups that come out, and we just enjoy the Lord.
We had a nice service, and we end today at about 6:30.
We just come and enjoy the Lord and good eating. §
Hi, come on in! How are you? (Berry-Brown) We give food to anyone that
comes about. If they come to visit us,
we don’t sell the food because we have too much food,
and anyone interested in having a plate– we had people from Charleston come by that
have never been, and so we take ’em around, give ’em a tour,
and we come back and give ’em something to eat
and invite them to our services. (female speaker) Just remember,
Jesus said, I am! He said, I am!
Trust the Lord! He’s getting ready!
[clapping] (narrator) The camp meetings
are descended from the brush arbors of old times,
and though more permanent structures have been erected,
they’re still referred to as tents. We have three tents here to my left.
They are 90 years old or over. Some of the boards on there
are the original boards that they built those tents with,
and four and five generation are in those tents yet today.
(narrator) While all of the buildings are somewhat basic,
most boast the minimal comforts of home. (male speaker) If you want the church to live
again, you got to put Jesus back in your heart!
(Calvin) My brother and I have one together. He stays awhile and then goes back home,
but I spend the night. I have to experience it by sleeping here at
night. I mean, I have a peaceful night’s sleep.
(female singer) § I need… § Somebody tell Him!
§ Oh… I need… § §
§ Every… § § every hour, I need. §§
(male speaker) I think back then people was better Christians than they is
now. And, now, don’t get me wrong…
there’s some good people still yet. But people now, they don’t…
they don’t commonly understand, like they should,
to attend service, and that kind of puzzles me.
But… the Lord is still able.
§ (female singer) § Every… §
§ every hour… § § I need. §§
I have a family, they love it to death, and in my heart, I think they would carry
it on after the death of me.
(narrator) Among the oldest campers is Mrs. Pecolar Banks, now 98 years young.
In 1927 is when I found Jesus. And that was, best of all, in my young days.
I been goin’ ever since. I love the man they call Jesus ’cause he brought
me so far. §