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Aaron Johnson: I like simple

In 1868, a small group of Methodists met beside a spring, not far from Rome, Ga. They gathered from several local churches and cleared the brush and made a “Brush Arbor.”

That term is largely lost to history and understood by only the oldest of us. It is simply a place where the brush is cleared out between the trees, and the clearing is used for a place to worship.

Families began gathering for an annual worship event at the Arbor that lasted all week. That small gathering of Christians called the place, the Morrison Campground. This week descendants from those first families, and any others who desire, still gather at the same place for the same purpose.

Every person is welcome. Every denomination is welcome. Every tradition is welcome.

For some it is a needed vacation from work. For others it is a family reunion. For many it is a tradition passed down since 1868. However, each person will tell you the center of the event is the Arbor. The place of meeting for worship.

The arbor is now a large open pavilion with a concrete floor and slatted pews. The roof is steep and old. Until recently it retained the cedar shaker roof. Memories live beneath the Arbor.

Beyond the place of meeting, family units still gather just as they did in 1868. Basic block cabins now line the square around the special place of meeting. Each cabin has a story of its own; as does the family who dwell there one week each year.

The location of the campground prevents internet and phone connections from being available. So, the children play today much like they did in 1868. They play every manner of sports that can be imagined. The highlight of the event for the children is the playing in the spring across the road.

Without the distractions of the phone, internet, and other devices, relationships are forged that will last a lifetime.

I like simple.

Last night, I had the honor of speaking at the annual camp meeting. We have visited this annual gathering as often as we have been able for almost thirty years. The privilege of speaking was truly an honor for me.

With no padded pews, no hundred-thousand-dollar sound system, no video equipment, no screen or projector, no carpet, no pipe organ, no suit or tie, no air-conditioning, and no walls; someone rang a dinner bell, the families converged on the place of meeting, and we worshipped.

It was simple. I like simple.

After 40 years of ministry, I have come to the conclusion that much of what we do at church today is more of a distraction than an act of obedience. A few years ago, I stepped away from the traditional church model and waited to see what God was going to do with me.

Today I lead a group of precious people from 11 denominations. Last Sunday I told the gathered congregation, “We are a group of souls from 11 different denominations and a handful of heathens.” We do simple church. Truth is, I am a lot like a mule in the Kentucky Derby; no show.

I like simple.

I am not an entertainer. I guess I am just a speaker who loves people. And I love to see people set free. And I will spend the rest of my life seeking opportunities to use what few gifts I have to set people free. That is simple.

Have I mentioned that I like simple?

Aaron Johnson is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News. He is pastor of Christ Redeemer Church in Guntersville.

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