Methodism in the American Forest

ISBN : 9780199359622

Russell E. Richey
240 ページ
164 x 240 mm

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 American woodland, 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 found a better outdoor sanctuary for larger 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 another important way. The remote, garden-like solitude provided them with a place to seek counsel from the Holy Spirit, serving as a kind of Gethsemane. As seen by the American Methodists, the forest was also a desolate wilderness, and a means for them to connect with Israel's wilderness years after the Exodus and Jesus's forty days in the desert after his baptism by John. Undaunted, the 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. The meeting 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, becoming a central denomination in America's religious landscape.


Introduction: Methodism and the American Woodland
1. Wilderness, Shady Grove, and Garden
2. Cathedraling the Woods
3. A Church Spread into the Wilderness
4. Gardening the Wilderness or Machines in the Garden or Tending the Garden
5. Two Cities in the Woods, Methodism's Gardening Options: A Concluding Note
Appendix: John Wesley Preaching under Trees and in Groves


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 Visiting Professor at Duke Divinity School.