published Saturday, October 6th, 2012

Cooper: Churches work together on long-lasting revival

With apologies to "The Cotton Patch Gospel," there's somethin' brewin' in Turtletown.

Within the last year, a monthly prayer gathering among a group of ministers at four churches in three denominations in the corner of land where Tennessee, Georgia and North Carolina meet grew into a weekly prayer group. This week it morphed into a revival that has rotated among the churches.

"We've already had around a dozen conversions," said the Rev. Robert E. Hamilton, pastor of Ducktown and Croft Chapel United Methodist churches, two of the four participating congregations. "It's moving real well."

The services continue today at 7 p.m. at Croft Chapel in Turtletown, Tenn., then on Sunday at 9:30 a.m. at Croft Chapel, at 11 a.m. at Ducktown and at 7 p.m. at Croft Chapel.

Earlier in the week, the services had been at Field of the Woods Church of God of Prophecy and Farner Presbyterian Church.

But that's not the end of it, Hamilton said.

The revival will pick up again in the spring at a tent that can seat 700 in a location central to the four churches.

The speaker this week -- and in the spring -- is Gary Keylon, Hamilton's grandson-in-law.

A Church of God evangelist and an engineer by trade, he recently conducted a revival in the Mobile, Ala., area that lasted several weeks.

A primary reason for the prayer group and, in turn, for the revival is the drug activity destroying the lives of youth and families, said Hamilton.

Young people can't find employment, he said, so they turn to growing and/or selling and manufacturing illegal substances.

"It is a real problem in the tri-state area," Hamilton said. "There's been deaths and different things."

The catalyst for the prayer group in the first place, he said, was Mark Reid, associate pastor at Farner Presbyterian and survivor of a drug nightmare himself. Reid knew all the pastors, he said, and was able to address the problem.

Hamilton, a retired pastor who has shepherded the two small churches for two years next month, said revivals at individual churches are not unusual in the tri-state area but cooperative ones involving several denominations are practically nonexistent.

"It's the first I know of," he said. "But I've been involved in interdenominational ministries for years. It's right down my alley."

Revivals, for better or for worse, have become streamlined over the years of his ministry, which began in the mid-1960s, Hamilton said.

Back then, he said, they'd go on for two weeks. Now, they're usually limited to a weekend. Anything beyond a weekend is amazing, he said.

"Television has something to do with it," Hamilton said. "Generally, the public doesn't want to commit themselves because of the fast pace of time. We live by a different calendar now."

But there's somethin' brewin' in Turtletown.

"Services go to two to three hours," Hamilton said. "There's praying for the sick, reports of healing. There's a great move of the spirit right now."

about Clint Cooper...

Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...

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