Do you believe there are angels here on earth? Do you believe in the supernatural?
Have you ever seen an angel? How about a ghost? I write today about a night long ago when a large group of people was treated to a concert by a host of angels. I call it, “The Night the Angels Sang.”
Back in the 1800s , in the days of religious services known as camp meetings, there was a famous campground in Giles County known as the Wabash Campground. You have very likely passed by that old meeting place many times while traveling along State Route 100, a few miles into Giles County. There is a state historical sign there that describes the campground.
One of the preachers who was deeply involved in its operation was Robert Sayers Sheffey. Brother Sheffey, as he was called, traveled through these mountains and valleys preaching and praying at various meeting places and he became known for the power of his prayers. I’m sure that you have all heard stories about this Giles County native from old folks you have come into contact with. It seems that about everybody knows a Brother Sheffey story or more.
One Monday Night, Sheffey was preaching at the Wabash Campground when a strange phenomenon occurred. It was on the final night of a revival and in the congregation were many early ministers from Southwest Virginia. One man, who happened to be the song leader for the meeting told the story as follows: he said he was standing behind the great Methodist minister, Tyler Frazier. Frazier was leading what was known as the after service, that I assume was the alter service (I feel sure this was the time when ministers talked with penitents who had been invited to the alter). Frazier suggested that the next song be, “Jesus Lover of my Soul.” During the singing of the second stanza, one of the ministers called out above the voices of the congregation, “Listen, Listen, the redeemed host of heaven are singing. I hear the voice of my mother.” The angel chorus, softer than human voices, but clearly distinguishable, could be heard through the remainder of the stanza. A thrill came over the congregation, and many pressed forward toward the front of the building.
One minister said, “There was a phenomenon, I have no doubt." All of the people who were on the right side of the shed were awe-struck and excited. The ones who heard it first were outside of the shed and apparently called the others out that they might hear. The looks on their faces and the manner they used in telling the story indicated that they truly believed that they were listening to singing of heavenly beings.
A Mrs. Stafford told later that she heard the voice of her mother. Following are statements made by others who were witnesses. Referring to those who stood outside and pointing up, “Their faces were radiant with almost supernatural light.”
“There was something supernatural about the meeting.”
“It was an experience one can never forget.”
“The important thing to me is that God was there.”
“I thought the singing from above was in response to those below.”
The above quotes are the words of honorable ministers of the Methodist Church and there were many there who witnessed what happened that night at the Wabash Campgrounds. The entire story of “The Night the Angels Sang” was taken from the book entitled, “Brother Sheffey,” by Rev. Willard Sanders Barbery, as re-printed by the Sheffey Campground Association. I can not vouch for the authenticity of this story, but can point out that all of the information was passed down by reputable ministers of the Methodist Church.
-Lloyd Mathews is a retired land surveyor and historian who lives in Pulaski.