What would you do if you didn’t have your church?
The question is not what you would do without your church friends, your Pastor and Small Group Leader, and your church community to support you and your family.
I mean, what would you do if you didn’t have a church to go to?
Virginia Hines grew up in the 1930’s on a small farm in southeast Oklahoma, not too very far away from the Dust Bowl, which they could faintly see by looking to the west, but far enough back in the country and blocked by the woods to be affected by it.
Life was hard, but simple. You farmed so you could eat. You worked so you could live. Her daddy tended the farm, raising animals and crops, and her mother canned food all summer so they had food on the table in the winter.
The community of Swink, Oklahoma was made up mostly of farmers, ranchers, and their families. There wasn’t a store nearby. They didn’t have a pastor, much less a church. Every month or so a circuit-riding preacher might come through, and when he did, that would be a special day.
One day the men of the community came together to build an open-air shelter for the purpose of worship. It was called a Brush Arbor, a simple, rugged tabernacle whose origins date back to the late 1800’s. It consisted of poles and boards put together to form a frame, with the roof being covered with hay or bushes. Benches, and a pulpit, were also constructed.
As word spread about the Brush Arbor near Swink, the community came together. It was a big day if as many as seven cars made their way down the dirt road to the meeting. There were no songbooks, but singing was the main thing most Sundays.
“You’d hear the good old songs- ‘When the Saints Go Marching In,’ ‘Nearer My God To Thee,’ ‘The Old Rugged Cross’- all led by my best friend’s father. My brothers would play guitar.”
Without a preacher, they would just sing all morning. During the summer they would have what they called “All Day Singin’ and Dinner on the Grounds.” It was a centerpiece of community life.
But when they did get a preacher, it was something. “The preacher came out of what was known as the ‘Holiness Church’, and he would preach hell-fire and brimstone sermons,” said Virginia. “When he gave the invitation, women would come down the aisle, carrying on, begging and pleading you to come forward and get saved.”
Virginia’s memories of that time are precious to her. She still has a prayer card given to her in Sunday School- a simple little card with a scripture printed on it that she treasures to this day. A vivid recollection she still relives is of her mother, along with several other women, being led to the creek to be baptized. And she’ll never forget the day she saw her daddy cry for the first time, moved to tears by the sweet song of a soloist. She herself, along with her brothers, sang specials together, introduced as “The Luna Boys and Sister”. They so looked forward to going to the Brush Arbor each Sunday and Wednesday that it didn’t bother them a bit to walk two miles through the woods to get there.
Eventually, a very basic building was constructed, and it became the church meeting place. The old Brush Arbor faded away, still alive in the memory and hearts of those who gathered there.
Virginia and her husband moved to Las Vegas and raised a family. The Hines were one of the families that helped grow a church- Central Christian Church of Las Vegas- that would eventually have much different accommodations that that of the Brush Arbor.
She has been a part of Green Valley for many years now-she dearly loves her pastors, and Green Valley is her church home. But on certain days when Virginia hears
the strains of an old gospel song- “Some glad morning when this life is o’er, I’ll fly away!”– she is taken back, just for a moment, to her childhood, and the days of the old Brush Arbor.
Written by David Simpson