Camp Meeting on Zion’s Hill Lays Foundation to “Revive and Rebuild”
By Carl Stagner
Though the Camp Meeting of the National Association of the Church of God convenes at a place called Zion’s Hill, the annual gathering of the saints is nothing short of a mountaintop experience. Sometimes such spiritually lofty moments fade upon descent from the summit, but when the Father in heaven speaks, when Jesus is exalted above all, and when the Holy Spirit’s presence is powerful, the implications are anything but fleeting. What took place over the span of just one week in early August 2023 at West Middlesex, Pennsylvania, instead laid a foundation for the Church of God, empowered by the Spirit of God, to “revive and rebuild.”
“It’s time to come out of the cave!” Bart Riggins, Tuesday evening speaker, insisted. Expounding upon the story of Elijah’s fear of Jezebel and Ahab in 1 Kings 19, the pastor of Faith Chapel Church of God in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was one of a wide array of preachers scheduled for Camp Meeting 2023. His message, like numerous others given from the pulpit where so many heroes of the faith have stood before, elicited extended response from the gathered saints listening intently. Everyone in the room understood the broader implications for their local churches, the National Association, and the broader Church of God movement. Like Elijah, these women and men of God remember all too well the pandemic that brought everything to a halt in 2020. They remembered the devastating fire that preceded last year’s gathering. They’re clearly cognizant of the social, political, and economic turmoil plaguing the present day. And that’s why they’re eager to participate fully in God’s perfect plan to “revive and rebuild,” this year’s overarching theme.
Of course, great preaching wasn’t the only anointed aspect of the event. Those who were on site for the experience and those who tuned in on YouTube couldn’t help but sense the Spirit alive and active in the midst of the music. Congregational worship this year was inspirational, as always, yet carried with it a shout of victory peculiarly resonating from the raging battlefield. After all, though the vision the Lord has revealed to NACOG hasn’t been fully realized, these godly women and men have every reason to worship through it—as “more than conquerors.” Such tone was observed and heard through some of the finest singing and instrumental praise this side of heaven, sometimes prompted simply by the Holy Spirit and orchestrated by the Divine Conductor.
What about that moment when speaker Dan Turner led in a poignant time of singing, “I Need You to Survive”? Consider the occasion when Leslie Barnes directed a powerful rendition of “Revelation 19.” Then there were worshipful moments outside of the auditorium that could take one’s breath away in view of our awesome God—like singing “Jesus Will” during the NAWCG Women’s Prayer Breakfast. God is great, and greatly to be praised!
“Camp Meeting is a time of connection both with God and man,” Alecia Swoope explains. “This year’s 107th annual Camp Meeting was no different!” Swoope, who serves Church of God Ministries as chief operating officer, adds that “The excitement was evident: hugs, conversation, and much laughter.”
Citing the fire that took place in 2022, she further observes, “There is a focus on not just rebuilding what was but making an investment in what (and who) is to come. This year, a new capital campaign ‘For Our Future’ was launched as we look forward and prepare for what God is going to do next. As we heard over and over through the anointed speakers, the strategy for forward is engaging all people, from the youngest to the oldest. This year had an intergenerational focus that charged each of us with shifting to a more collective perspective that is much more interconnected.”
Pauline Neal, who serves as credentials program coordinator for Church of God Ministries, also came away from Zion’s Hill this year blessed and refreshed. Her poetic observations inspire and offer an appropriate conclusion to any summation of the National Association Camp Meeting:
“A song of creation rises in the morning on Zion’s Hill. Creation praises his name as the birds sing and the breeze gently blows while the saints begin to stir. Vendors are setting up their wares. The ushers gather at the corner of the tabernacle to pray in preparation to serve the saints as they come to worship. Prayer joins in perfect harmony with the songs of praise of nature as an offering unto the Lord. The saints began to arrive; some walking, while others, who could no longer make it up the hill on their own power, came on golf carts ready to worship. Remnants of the saints of old gathered to worship. The saints began to lift their voices in worship. It traveled out of the tabernacle up into the hills. All could hear the songs of praise and worship to our Mighty God. Old hymns, as well as new songs, were sung with conviction. Oh, what a wonderful sound to hear creation and those created in God’s image rejoicing together!”
Learn more about the National Association of the Church of God at www.nacog.com.
Feature (top) photo: Conference at Zion’s Hill 2023. Several photos courtesy Handel Smith.