The revivals of the 2nd Great Awakening entered North Carolina from Kentucky and marched westward for the rest of 1801 and the early part of 1802. They stirred up fresh and revitalized faith in each of the visited counties, and they saw many lost souls encounter God’s forgiveness and grace in an electrifying way. One of the largest camp meetings took place in Iredell County, and then, in March 1802, the Holy Spirit directed the movement to head south into the city of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.

Mecklenburg was no stranger to God’s visitation of revivals. The city of Charlotte presently is the biggest city in North Carolina and is one of 7 municipalities in Mecklenburg County. Looking back in history, the very first churches of this county were the Presbyterian churches that were established in the mid-1700’s. When Rev. Alexander Craighead was called in 1760 to be the minister at Sugaw Creek Church, he brought with him a heart that was fully aflame with revival fire. He closely kept up with the journeys of the itinerant preacher and revivalist George Whitefield, and he influenced many congregations in Mecklenburg to be a part of the powerful move of God in the First Great Awakening. 

However, as the Revolutionary War of 1776 began, many of the local churches saw their growth stall significantly. After the war concluded, the influx of human-centered philosophies from Europe caused a great deal of skepticism and spiritual apathy to creep into the church. It became popular to question the authority of God’s Word and to drift away from Christ. And yet, there were those in the Church who did not stop praying. If anything, the 1790’s saw an uptick of churches calling for seasons committed to prayer and fasting, crying out for a return to the Lord and the blessing of revival. 

So, when news of a fresh awakening spread across North Carolina, hunger sharpened for a rekindled touch from God in the Mecklenburg region. Providence Presbyterian church, just south of Charlotte proper, opened its grounds as a site for the next camp meeting. Providence Church had been one of the original seven Presbyterian churches established there, and it had proven faithful to the Gospel over the years. Its pastors had fought the good fight against the encroachment of those wanting to tear down the authority of the Bible. Now, they waited for God’s next move with great anticipation.

On a Friday morning March 26th, 1802, a throng of 6000 spiritually hungry seekers made their way to the chosen site, a small lush hill that was easily accessible from all directions and bordered by a clear cool stream. All through that day, tents popped up and horse-drawn wagons pulled into place. As the evening service began, the minister led off with a prayer and used the text from Genesis 28:17, which says, “This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of Heaven.” 

The area was saturated with faith and prayer and the Word of God. The revivalists – a mix of Presbyterians, Methodists, and Baptists -hoped and prayed for signs of the Lord’s presence to appear. However, all through Friday and Saturday and most of Sunday, the responses of the attending folks seemed strangely lackluster. Finally, around 9PM Sunday evening, all through the multiple ministry sections at the site, people started trembling or praying or crying out to God. The ministers continued to lead their sections in prayer and encouragement for the whole night. As Monday morning broke upon the field, a minister presented a sermon from the central stage, and then 6 ministers led each of their subareas in heart-felt worship of Jesus Christ.

Suddenly, onlookers witnessed approximately 100 people overcome by the Spirit of God and falling to their knees or collapsing upon the grass. There was a moment of hushed quiet as people praised and worshiped God in awe, and then a pronounced flood of loud cries to God erupted, seeking mercy and forgiveness from their sins. Other manifestations like shaking, sobbing, laughter, and falling face down broke out. This enveloped a large percentage of the audience. Even those youths who had previously been most vocal against the revival and adamant against emotional behaviors soon found themselves encountering God’s presence. They too fell to the ground, cried out for mercy, and several ended up putting their trust in Christ for salvation. God’s presence could not be constrained that day. The old well of revival in this region of Mecklenburg had been re-opened again in a mighty way!

QUESTIONS TO DISCUSS:

  1. What grabs your attention the most about this scene of revival?
  2. Why do you think it took almost 3 days before God’s presence was released fully upon all those gathered? What might God be looking for?
  3. What makes you most excited about God’s desire to re-open old wells of revival? 

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