By Kevin Williams
For newbies here we have a very talented weekly columnist in Rosanna Bauman. Rosanna is a 27-year-old writer, farmer, teacher, entrepreneur and jack-of-all-trades who lives in Garnett, Kansas. She is Old German Baptist Brethren, a Plain church that shares many similarities with the Amish but they aren't completely like them. Brethren dress plainly but they tolerate photography, drive cars, and use electricity. Another distinctive feature of the Brethren church as opposed to the Amish is that they have more of a centralized church structure and this is borne out in their "Annual Meeting", a combination revival, carnival, picnic, and family reunion. The event draws thousands of people and runs like - sorry to be cliche - a well-oiled machine.
I spoke with Rosanna this morning and was very apologetic about being absent the past few weeks. Hosting Annual Meeting is a huge undertaking requiring lodging for hundreds of people (usually the host church puts up members in houses, not hotels), feeding thousands, and there are logistics like port-o-potties, nurseries, and parking to contend with. And Rosanna is in the thick of it all this year. Her community won't hosting the Annual Meeting again for another 7 years. Annual Meeting rotates from Brethen community to Brethren community.
Rosanna told me that yesterday was the day that the "big tent" went up. Church men had it up at 7 a.m. Guests also began arriving yesterday. The meeting will conclude on Tuesday. By Wednesday all the infrastructure will be dismantled and there will be very little trace of the gathering. Read more about the Big Tent here.
Interestingly, there is a parallel gathering of Brethren youth that goes on at the same time with the same logistics, planning, etc involved. That gathering is usually held on a separate farm close to the where the main show is going on. Before you shudder at the thought of hundreds of teenagers descending upon your farm, I will say that having visiting the youth gathering once, the teens were remarkably polite and well-behaved. Adult chaperones rove the grounds looking for trouble but there is rarely any. There are usually several regulation volleyball courts set up with a lot of spiking and serving going on. Feeding all of those teens is an undertaking. At the meeting I went to, Arby's had a booth set up to dole out mounds of roast beef to the youth. You can read more about the youth gathering here.
For newbies, you can read a Q & A with Rosanna that I conducted several years ago when she first began writing for us. Some of the stuff is dated, but it is still interesting.