Brush arbor revivals have had a long history in America, but people who weren't alive 50 or 60 years ago — and even some who were — may not know much about their beginning.
A brush arbor is a rough, open-sided shelter constructed of vertical poles driven into the ground with additional long poles laid across the top as support for a roof of brush, cut branches or hay. They first became popular in the 1700s and were used by churches to protect worshipers from the weather during lengthy revival meetings.
Brush arbor revivals were held regularly through the mid-1900s. These "protracted meetings" could last for days or even weeks, with many people traveling for miles to attend services while camping on the grounds.
An itinerant minister or a preacher who rode circuit through rural communities would send word in advance of his expected arrival and the congregation would erect a brush arbor to house the revival meeting, usually at a crossroads, in a well-traveled area.
Coincidentally, Crossroads Church of God in rural Farmington has held a brush arbor revival this week that ends tonight.
The church's pastor, Joe Pogue, explained the significance of a brush arbor as a throwback to a simpler, more down to earth time when local communities were just starting and churches were less formal.
“Brush arbors are something from days gone by," he said. "They used to put these up when there weren’t a lot of churches. “It’s something of history. We thought that we might get people to come out to a brush arbor that wouldn’t feel comfortable necessarily in a church. We just want to share the Lord Jesus with anybody we can.”
Several people in the community aside from the church were involved in constructing the arbor, according to Pogue.
“We put it before the church and talked to some people and they said ‘Yeah, we can build one of them,'” he said. “It took us several days to gather the stuff and had a lot of people within the church and friends of the church to help cut everything and put it together — and we finished it Saturday."
Pogue added that some old tractors and wagons were parked near the brush arbor to help add a "rural touch" to the location. Many of the men dress in overalls or jeans and a few of the women are likely to wear old-fashioned long dresses to match period attire.
While brush arbor revivals have for the most part become a part of America's past, they can still be found, especially in rural communities, where they provide worshipers a dry and shady place to hear the gospel preached like their grandparents and great-grandparents did years ago.