When places of worship were built during the last decades of the eighteenth century and the first years of the nineteenth, they tended to be rectangular meeting houses--"built plain and decent, but not more expensive than is absolutely unavoidable"--fitted out with benches, a pulpit, and communion table. The buildings that survive from this period are shrines of United Methodism, but what has not survived was perhaps more characteristic of the worship of the period: the camp meeting grove. Here people from miles around gathered to listen to preachers who stood on tree stumps or temporary platforms. They sang simple gospel songs and often responded to the singing and preaching by jerking, rolling, barking, dancing, and falling--with the result nevertheless that many gave themselves to Christ, put aside their undisciplined ways of living, and became responsible citizens. These camp meetings were a major means of United Methodist expansion as they followed the American frontier on its moves over the Allegheny Mountains into the valley of the Ohio, then into the Mississippi basin and across the Missouri, and finally to the Pacific.
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