South Union United Methodist Campmeeting
Note: Miss Erin Moss delivered this powerful message at a point that she was legally blind. South Union does not have a teleprompter so quoted all Bible verses for memory. Many thanks to Beverly Dodd for transcribing her message.
Memorial Day Observance
May 27, 2001
Speaker: Miss Erin Moss
Let us bow our heads for just a moment of prayer. Our Father, we thank Thee for Thy goodness and praise Thee for all the wonderful works that Thou hast done for us. We thank Thee for all the people that are here this morning at South Union, for all that have been here in the past who are now with Thee, for all who wanted to be here but are physically unable to be here. We ask Thee to be with us and may we all feel Thy presence for we know that Thou are with us. May we feel Thy presence and Thy love and Thy power. We ask Thee to lead us in this time that we meet together and give to us Thy blessings. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.
With humility I stand here where so many great preachers, talented singers, and gifted laymen have come to us with powerful sermons, beautiful songs, and memorial addresses that touched our hearts. I have so much love for South Union and for the people who come here and I have so much love for all who have been here in the past and have now crossed to the other side. I have so much love for the ones who once came here and are still living but are physically unable to ever be with us again. And I have so much love for the Lord that it is to me a joy and a privilege to stand in this sacred place and lead you in this, our memorial time together. I thank you for inviting me to come here this morning. I want to thank all of you for being here. We look forward to seeing you and we hope all of you will be back with us for camp meeting. It is my wish and my prayer, too, that when all of God's children have been gathered home, that every person under this arbor will be there in that gathering. I may not know who all of you are. I'm almost blind and may not recognize you, even when we meet face to face unless you tell me who you are. But God knows you and He loves you and wants you to be there with Him when all of His children get home. Now with your love and your prayers and with the love of our Lord and with His help, let us look to the past and remember, look to the present and see the great heritage that is ours, and realize the responsibility that has fallen on our shoulders, and look to the future and rejoice for the best is yet to be.
I have been a member of this South Union church for seventy-six years and have been coming here longer than that because my parents, Jim Moss and Ella Snow Moss started bringing me here when I was just a baby. There are so many things that I would like to tell you about all those many years that I have been coming here but time won't let me do that. But I remember coming to memorial days and seeing crowds of people coming across the campground with beautiful flowers in their hands, carrying them to the cemetery to place on the graves of their loved ones. Now so many of them have gone on and others are bringing flowers to place on their graves. Entire families that I have known have gone on. I remember coming to camp meetings and seeing people come from their tents across to the arbor at the blowing of the horn that called us to worship. Some of these members are so far in the past that they seem like a dream, but a beautiful dream. And then coming on closer up by, I can still see very clearly Lillie Belle Liddell coming from her tent behind the church with all of her family, her children, her grandchildren, and her in-laws walking with her, coming even before the blowing of the horn. She never was late to a service and never missed a service. Now her children, her grandchildren, her great-grandchildren, and in-laws are carrying on the way that she did.
Now we can't talk about everything that happened in the past, but let us look back to the time when South Union first became a place of worship. None of us, of course, knew personally our founding fathers, but in that group was my great-grandfather, the Reverend Archie Moss, a circuit rider, who with another circuit rider, the Reverend Humphrey Buck, and a layman, Carl Pollard, met, had prayer, and started South Union Camp Meeting, the first of which was held in 1872. Before that time there was a South Union Methodist Church. The three men that I just mentioned and their wives were members of that first church, a log church built about 1840. Now, of course all in that first generation have passed on but they left to those coming after them South Union, a place of worship. The second and third generations added their touch to South Union history. They added their touch for the lives that followed them. And in this second and third generation, all those people kept and used South Union as a place of worship and now they have passed it on to us who are following them. My generation, the fourth, is the oldest generation now living. We have moved to the front line and are fast crossing over to the other side. But we have with us about three generations of people who are younger than we are who also love South Union and we are looking to them to keep coming here after we are gone and to keep this a place of worship, never turning it into anything else.
Now over the years we have loved and lost so many people and we will continue to miss them until we are with them again. But in the last year, I don't think I have ever known a year when we have lost more. And once again let me mention to you the people that we have lost for they mean so much to me and to all of you. Now I have already mentioned Calton Bruce, a member of our church. And also another member of our church, a faithful member that we have lost is N.H.Gatlin. And others, though not members of South Union church but very much a part of South Union, people very dear to us are Lyndell Chambers who is a descendent of an old camp meeting family, the Neely Henderson family, and then Marietta Love and her brother Kendall Worrell, the last of the Mac Worrell family. And then Carmen Blaine who we have seen so many times at camp meeting, and Joyce Bruce though we have now seen her here quite so much. She used to come to camp meeting too. And then from an old camp meeting family, Hayes Smith who in his eighties still would come down, drive from his home in Normal, Illinois, making the trip in a day's time to be with us for camp meeting. And then Mildred McWhorter Ray, Doris Terry's sister would come from her home in South Carolina and stay with Doris to attend camp meeting. And two other very dear people that we have seen at South Union so many times are Mrs. James Black and Mrs. Houston King. And then this morning we received word that Hester Blaine had died. Now the dear ones are gathering home. We know that we love all these. We miss them greatly but we as Christians sorrow not as others who have no hope, for we know that we will see them again, that we will know them, that we will be reunited with them, and that nothing will ever again take them away from us.
We can look first of all at the trees that surround this campground, the beautiful trees all around the campground. Across the road, South Union owns land, the South Union spring, the hills above it, and trees on that and the trees along the side of the road. When we look at these trees, we are reminded of the goodness and greatness of God, the creator and sustainer of the universe, who gave us all things richly to enjoy. Then they stand as a memorial to those who went before us, who appreciated and enjoyed God's creation and left them for us to enjoy. Now we want to keep these trees around the campground. Never is a tree cut on South Union land unless it dies and has to be cut to keep it from falling on somebody. Then we look at the land and the buildings here. They stand as a memorial to those who went before us. And it takes a lot of work to keep up South Union, not only just cleaning up and mowing and getting ready for memorial day and camp meeting, but throughout the entire year a lot of work is required. And as long as we keep the ones that we now have, the job will be done and will be done well.
And now to the tents. Two of these tents were built by people who are still living and still coming here every year to tent. They built them in keeping with the rest of the tents to preserve the rustic beauty of the place. Now, these other tents, each has a history to tell, a story to tell. The older people built them, and tented in them, came here to worship, and then left them to us. And as they did in the days of old, we still want to move over here two or three days before the meetings start, not only to enjoy being here and being together, but so that we will have quiet time to think and pray and get ready for the meetings.
Then we look at the church. It was built by people who have now gone from us. We want to keep that going and so far we are doing that. The membership is small but we still meet every Sunday morning for Sunday School and then on second, fourth, and fifth Sundays we have preaching and Communion on the fifth Sundays. Later an annex was built to the church by people who have now gone on and that annex bears to the name of the Lloyd Reed Annex. It was named after one of our faithful South Union members, Lloyd Reed who married into the Buell Adams family, one of the old time camp meeting families. And then this Lloyd Reed Memorial Annex stands as a memorial to those who went before us. And also, near the entrance to the campground is a beautiful cedar tree that was put out in memory of Lloyd Reed.
And then we come…..let me mention this too, because this is something that I use every Sunday morning going up and down the steps, the rails that have been put on the sides of those steps, put there by Meek Blaine who has been gone for a long time. At the time he built them, I was much younger and could see and I didn't need them then, but I certainly need them now every Sunday morning. I would like to thank Meek, if I could, just for putting them there.
Then we come to this arbor. And I become almost speechless when I come to the arbor because it means so much to me. It is the third arbor that we have had here. The first was destroyed by a tornado in 1883, the second accidentally destroyed by fire in July of 1914. But the very next day, a group of men came over and started building on this present arbor. Under the supervision of Jim Stewart with Jim Blackwood's help as a foreman, and with the work of a lot of men, and I wish I knew the names of all of them, but I expect to meet them when I get to heaven. Because these men came over here and worked hard and within two weeks they had finished this building and had camp meeting that year in August. Now to me, this arbor is a masterpiece of workmanship, a work of love for these men who worked on it, worked on it without pay, just giving their time. And it is really a treasure that cannot be replaced. Under this arbor, and this of course is the center of it all, under this arbor we have heard powerful messages by great preachers. We have heard the singing of old camp meeting hymns, such as Amazing Grace that Billy Bruce used to sing for us up here every camp meeting until he had gone home. And then also On Jordan's Stormy Banks and The Old Rugged Cross, The Unclouded Day. We still hear those songs being sung and we want to keep on singing them for they lift our hearts and lift us closer to God. Then we would see people come forward. I have seen people come up here and surrender their lives to Christ, accepting Him by faith as their Saviour. Then I have seen people come up here and join the church. This is where I joined the church many years ago. And then people, we see people, and we still see this, coming forward to dedicate or re-dedicate their lives to the Lord and when I see Grace Smith come up to re-dedicate her life, as good as Grace Smith was and as close as she lived to the Lord, I thought it was time for everybody else to be coming up. And then so many times we gathered around the alter for a time of prayer and we still do that. In the old days we would get down on our knees in the saw dust and the shavings on the dirt floor and pray. And now we keep and want to continue to keep the four worship services a day and these were started earlier. And then we want to keep our Thursday night prayer service for the tent-holders and others who want to come in preparation for the meetings that start on Friday night before the fourth Sunday of July every year. So always remember four. That's the number here at South Union. At one time they had preaching on the fourth Sunday only. And then on the fourth Sunday in May we the memorial, on the fourth Sunday in July the camp meeting. So, four, remember the number four.
And then we are still keeping so many of these things. We still have people who stay around and talk for a long time after the services are over, just enjoying being together and greeting old friends and meeting new ones. And the love that we have here continues. That is the greatest thing in the world, the love that we feel here at South Union. And we still have the old horn that calls us to worship. This horn was sent to us from Texas by Edward Buck who came from an old camp meeting family. Edward died as a young man.
And then we have a few things that have been replaced, nothing that changed the rustic beauty of this place, nothing that changed its appearance, nothing that changed the worship services here, and we don't want that ever to be. But we, of course have had electric lights that came in to replace the Aladdin lamps and lanterns under the arbor and the kerosene lamps and lanterns at the tents. We had electric fans put all around to replace the Palmetto fans, the funeral home fans, and the little folding fans. And then we have had water put in to the tents to replace buckets full of water that we would go to spring for and come back up that steep hill and rocky pathway. It was interesting and pretty but it was an exhausting climb up that hill. And then our old organ that was so beautifully played by Louise Smith and Effie Smith Gilliam has been replaced by a piano and keyboard. Now these changes have just helped us. But the only change that has been made is seeing so many empty benches to take the place of the crowded benches that once were here.
Now we want to keep not only South Union as a place of worship, never turning it into anything else, but we want to keep it a quiet, peaceful place of worship where people can just get away from the stress and strain and anxiety, and the rush and the loud noises of everyday life, and come out over here where it is peaceful, quiet, where we can be close to nature and close to God, where we can just be still and know that God is God, that He is our God and where we can feel His presence, His love and His power, and can receive His blessings. It is my opinion, some may disagree with this point, but it is my opinion that when Christ comes back to call out His church, that South Union will still be here as a quiet, peaceful place of worship. It is because that the people who come here love it so. God knows how much we love it. God loves us so much and God has all power. And He can touch the hearts of people and send them to us, the ones that will be a help to us, as He has done in the past.
And now another memorial that I would like to mention that stands as a memorial to those that went before us, we who are still living are a living memorial to those who went before us. Now the ones who brought us over to South Union, that came over here to worship with us, and who left us this great heritage, the ones that gave us Christian homes filled with love to grow up in, who provided for us, trained us, taught us to live by the teachings of the Bible, sacrificed for us, giving us things that they needed themselves but that we might have more, who walked in the ways of the Lord giving us examples to follow, and who left us with precious memories to carry with us throughout life. We are living memorials to them, and as so much we need to live such lives that our lives will honor them and glorify God and to be an example for others to follow.
Now those who have gone on, fought a good fight, they kept the faith, they finished the course, and they have gone home. And now, one of these days our Lord will call to us and tell us it is our time to go home. But now all of us know that in order to be ready to go to meet our Lord and to be with those who have gone before us that we have to have Jesus Christ as our Saviour. And the Bible tells us in First John, the fifth chapter, the twelfth verse, "He that hath the Sun hath life and he that hath not the Sun of God hath not life." So we have Christ.
And then in Ephesians 2:8-9, we are told, "For by grace are ye saved through faith and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast." But the very next verse, Ephesians 2:10 tells us, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, unto good works, whereby God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." So we do these good works and there are people who carry very heavy loads but they don't want to be a burden to someone else so they go on and struggle on with them. But the Bible tells us that "Bear ye one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ." And along with these good works we have love and we know that the first and greatest commandment as Jesus told us is to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, soul, mind, and strength, and the second is like unto it, to love thy neighbor as thyself. And the second one is referred to in scripture as the loyal law. So with Christ as our Saviour, with love in our hearts, we go about doing good works as long as we are here. And I believe in handing out the roses to people while they are still living, but since this is a memorial service I'li just save my roses and give them to you from time to time because so many people have done so much for me. And I do appreciate it and I have not forgotten one little thing, and I never will.
And now we begin to look forward to going on home. And we look to what it is like in heaven. And we have in Revelation 21:4, "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying. Neither shall there be any more pain for the former things are passed away." And then in First Corinthians 2:9, "As it is written, eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things that God hath prepared for them that love Him." And then we think about, well what about the body. I have heard this many times. What about the body. How do we know that our loved ones have gone to be with the Lord? But now, God takes care of everything for us. He is so good to us and He takes care of everything if we will just let Him. And so the Bible tells us that there will come a time when all the graves will be opened and we shall be resurrected for life everlasting and the Bible tells us that the same great, mighty power that raised Christ from the dead shall raise us up also. At Easter we heard so much about the empty tomb and the risen Christ and we hear the words of Jesus as recorded in Revelation 1:18, "I am He that liveth and was dead and behold I am alive forevermore. Amen, and have the keys of hell and of death."
And now if I could sing as some of you can, I would sing When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound and time shall be no more, and the morning breaks eternal bright and fair, when the saved of earth shall gather to their home beyond the sky, and the roll is called up yonder, I'll be there.
And then with this I close. From the fourth chapter of First Thessalonians, "For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the arch angel and with the trump of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so shall we ever be with the Lord, wherefore comfort ye one another with these words."
Transcriber: Beverly Dodd