Shepherds Hill Homestead, the five-acre farm in rural Clay County that Burrell and his wife Angie call home, is filled with the fruits of his and his family’s labor. From the clothes they wear to the food they eat, almost everything they own is created by their hands.
“Anything you think that would have been happening on a farm 100 years ago, we do,” Angie said.
Blacksmithing, knitting, crocheting, basket weaving, soap- and candle-making, and beekeeping are but a few of the trades the Burrell family ply to sustain themselves. On their farm they keep livestock, which provides the materials for the clothes they make and wear, while they grow most of their own food from their garden.
“It really grieves the heart when you can’t produce something that you can hold or look at,” Angie said. “We think that’s missing from the modern world.”
More than 10 years ago the Burrells decided they needed to make a change to a simpler, more spiritual way of living.
“We were discouraged with what was going on, with families falling apart,” Paul said. “We wanted to find the stability in our own family. We really started looking to God.”
“Church was becoming so compromised,” Angie recalled. “There’s got to be something that separates God’s people.”
Together, they looked at the different ways of life of many religious groups and took inspiration from the Amish.
The Burrells’ lifestyle is a contrast to Paul’s profession as an IT client service analyst with Alabama Power, at the company’s office on Quintard Avenue. But the Burrells don’t share all of the ideology of the Amish. For one, they don’t shun technology. They use vehicles to get around, have electricity and Internet service in their home. They have a television which they use to watch movies, but not cable TV.
“We don’t consider ourselves Amish, or even Mennonite,” Paul said. “We’re just Christian.”
Most importantly, Angie said, they accept everyone.
“We don’t shun people who disagree with us,” she said.
And the Burrells don’t live their lives just for themselves. Through their website, they share their skills and tips, present family photos and invite the world to share in their prayer and worship. The website, at http:// http://shepherdshillhomestead.com, has received visits from more than 100 countries, all 50 states and receives 10,000 page hits a month, according to Paul.
And even right in their community, they’re able to get their message out.
“We understand people are going to ask questions,” Paul said about the reaction he and his family sometimes receive when acquaintances or even strangers find out about their lifestyle.
“We want them to ask us,” Angie said. “It’s an opportunity we get to share our faith.”
The Burrells hold weekly worship services, as well as Bible studies and fellowship events, usually including a meal, right in their home an approach they call “home churching.”
“We just have church in our living room,” Paul said.
They’re joined regularly by about 15 other people who come to worship with the family, Paul said.
Faith is the most important part of their lives, Paul and Angie said, but one doesn’t have to believe in order to make changes in their lives to a simpler way of living. Paul said he encourages everyone to try growing their own foods or learning a simple skill that can save money or be a rewarding experience. For him and his family, there’s no better way to live.
“Anybody can do this,” he said. “It just makes sense for us.”
Star staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546