Methodism in the American Forest

Hardcover | April 3, 2015

byRussell E. Richey

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During the nineteenth century, camp meetings became a signature program of American Methodists and an extraordinary engine for their remarkable evangelistic outreach. Methodism in the American Forest explores the ways in which Methodist preachers interacted with and utilized the Americanwoodland, and the role camp meetings played in the denomination's spread across the country. Half a century before they made themselves such a home in the woods, the people and preachers learned the hard way that only a fool would adhere to John Wesley's mandate for preaching in fields of the New World. Under the blazing American sun, Methodist preachers sought and found a better outdoorsanctuary for large gatherings: under the shade of great oaks, a natural cathedral where they held forth with fervid sermons. The American forests, argues Russell E. Richey, served the preachers in several important ways. Like a kind of Gethesemane, the remote, garden-like solitude provided themwith a place to seek counsel from the Holy Spirit. They also saw the forest as a desolate wilderness, and a means for them to connect with Israel's years after the Exodus and Jesus's forty days in the desert after his baptism by John. The dauntless preachers slashed their way through, following America's expanding settlement, and gradually sacralizing American woodlands as cathedral, confessional, and spiritual challenge-as shady grove, as garden, and as wilderness. The threefold forest experience became a Methodist standard. Themeeting of Methodism's basic governing body, the quarterly conference, brought together leadership of all levels. The event stretched to two days in length and soon great crowds were drawn by the preaching and eventually the sacraments that were on offer. Camp meetings, if not a Methodist invention,became the movement's signature, a development that Richey tracks throughout the years that Methodism matured, to become a central denomination in America's religious landscape.

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During the nineteenth century, camp meetings became a signature program of American Methodists and an extraordinary engine for their remarkable evangelistic outreach. Methodism in the American Forest explores the ways in which Methodist preachers interacted with and utilized the Americanwoodland, and the role camp meetings played in th...

Russell E. Richey, author or editor of twenty books and an array of articles on American Methodism, held professorial and administrative posts successively at Drew, Duke, and Emory universities. He is Dean Emeritus of Candler School of Theology and William R. Cannon Distinguished Professor of Church History Emeritus. He now serves as ...

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:240 pages, 9.41 × 6.5 × 0.98 inPublished:April 3, 2015Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199359628

ISBN - 13:9780199359622

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Methodism and the American Woodland1. Wilderness, Shady Grove, and Garden2. Cathedraling the Woods3. A Church Spread into the Wilderness4. Gardening the Wilderness or Machines in the Garden or Tending the Garden5. Two Cities in the Woods, Methodism's Gardening Options: A Concluding NoteAppendix: John Wesley Preaching under Trees and in GrovesNotesIndex

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"Russell Richey has done as much as anyone to shape how we think about early American Methodism. In this call to reconsider the connection between nature and faith, Richey expands the scope of his work. American Methodists did not simply tolerate 'the woods,' they engaged with the forest andincorporated it into their ministry. Nowhere was this more evident than at camp meetings, as Richey so persuasively argues." --John Wigger, Professor and Chair, Department of History, University of Missouri