Religion on America's Western Frontier

n early August 1801 as many as 20,000 to 30,000 people gathered at Cane Ridge Meeting House in Bourbon County, Kentucky, for a revival that became the defining event of the late 18th and early 19th century Western Great Revival period. Following the tradition of the Presbyterian seasonal communion celebration which had roots in 17th century Scotland, people with Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, and other religious persuasions as well as those with none, worshiped together. The seasonal sacramental events had captured the imaginations of the emerging American mind. It mattered not whether one was rich, poor, educated or not, or culturally sophisticated or not. To Cane Ridge they came and at Cane Ridge they intended to make camp and join a vibrant worship experience.

    A new American tradition was in the making. Perhaps new to the sacramental occasion was the intentional bringing along of tents and camping provisions. Camp meetings were taking on a life of their own. The "revival meeting" was moving into its place in the American consciousness.

    Two hundred years later, between August 4 and 12, 2001, the trustees and curators of the Cane Ridge Preservation Project invited all to honor those days of 1801 with nine days of celebration.  Calling it "The Great Gathering," the climax of the nine days of prayer, praise, and worship was a communion service much like the one served in 1801.

    The Signing of the Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery occurred in the Cane Ridge Meeting House on June 28, 1804, with Presbyterian ministers Robert Marshall, John Donlavy, Richard McNemar, Barton Warren Stone, and John Thompson, plus a ministerial candidate, David Purviance, signing the document.  The Bicentennial Celebration took place June 26 - 28, 2004 at Cane Ridge with speakers, a drama, soloists, music groups, picnics and box lunches on the grounds, and an overnight prayer vigil in the Meeting House on the final night.

    The Great Gathering had as its goal "To celebrate the influence and promise of the Great Revival." A distinguished advisory panel and committees from Central Kentucky churches worked to bring this about.    

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Rev. 2/28/07