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Bishop David Graves to preach at 200th Sulphur Springs Camp Meeting

• Updated Aug 1, 2019 at 7:05 PM

Area United Methodists and their neighbors will worship together Aug. 4-7 for the 200th consecutive year during camp meeting in Sulphur Springs.

This is a year of great historical celebration for the Sulphur Springs United Methodist Camp Meeting, which will be held the camp shed that still has many of the original timbers in which it was built many years ago.

The Camp Meeting will have one of its own helping with the celebration this year and leading the worship each evening.

Bishop David Graves, a native of Knoxville, and a graduate of the University of Tennessee, will be the speaker for the services. Graves received his Master of Divinity degree from the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta. He was the recipient of the 2013 Holston Denman Evangelism Award.

He and his wife, Nancy, have been married for 35 years. They have two children, Casey and Gregg. Gregg lives and works in the Chattanooga area. Their daughter, Casey, is married to Bryan Johnson and reside in Kingsport with their son, Brooks.

Graves has been an ordained pastor in the United Methodist Church for over 28 years. He began his ministry at the Fountain City United Methodist Church in Knoxville. His first appointment was as the youth director and associate pastor for Hixson United Methodist Church in Chattanooga. He served as pastor for two Kingsport area churches, Saint Matthew’s United Methodist Church and Mountain View United Methodist Church. He was senior pastor for Ooltewah United Methodist Church, a large membership church. He was appointed District Superintendent for the Kingsport District of the Holston Conference, where he served for six years and was dean of the Cabinet.

He comes to the Alabama-West Florida Conference from Church Street United Methodist Church in Knoxville. He was appointed to the Alabama-West Florida Conference as resident bishop on July 14, 2016, at the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina.

Sunday through Wednesday evening gatherings occur at the historic camp shed in front of Sulphur Springs United Methodist Church, located on Tenn. Highway 75 about six miles south from Interstate 26’s Gray-Appalachian Fair Exit.13. The camp shed is located at 1432 Gray Sulphur Springs Road.

On Sunday afternoon at 3, a Youth Gathering will be held in the camp shed led by the Rev. Leann Crandall. At 4, the Camp Meeting will begin with a food packing event. Volunteers will gather from 4-6 to assemble 10,000 meals to be sent to help feed the hungry. Anyone wishing to volunteer may do so by calling Michael Vaughn at 423-833-2909.

Each evening, congregational and special groups, including Munsey Memorial UMC, First Broad Street, Kingsport, The Scott Family from Greeneville and a District Mass Choir, will perform. Music will begin at 6:30, with the worship service immediately afterwards. A nursery will be available for infants through age 3 each evening in the Family Life Center. A special children’s program will be held on Sunday evening at 7 for children ages 5-9 consisting of Bible stories and Bible verses, singing, games, and much more. A light meal will be served to the children.

All events are free and open to all who wish to attend, although opportunities to make offerings will be provided. More information can be found at www.sulphurspringsumc.org.

Both the camp shed and the worship held on the site have played critical roles in the development of Methodism in Southern Appalachia. As early as 1802, Methodist Bishop Francis Asbury wrote in his journal that he had attended a camp meeting in the area, with more than 1,500 people present. Most likely, Asbury attended a meeting held in a brush arbor. The gathering was formally organized in 1820, with the shed being built in 1842.

The shed was rebuilt in 1900, but the original hand-hewn logs were incorporated into the new structure and still can be seen today. Originally, families traveled far to worship three times a day at the site for four or five days. Their long stays led to the construction of a series of cabins around the shed. These were torn down in the early 20th century as transportation improved and meetings became shorter.

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