‘Praise the lord and pass the rattlesnakes’: the pastor killed by the viper he preached with

Source: The Guardian

By 

Pastor Mack Wolford had many ways of getting the faithful all fired up. He would drive from town to town, preaching, singing, speaking in tongues and brandishing – on several occasions – venomous snakes. Wolford, who lived in McDowell County in West Virginia, belonged to the Full Gospel Apostolic House of the Lord Jesus, one of the few remaining small Appalachian Pentecostal sects known as “sign followers”.

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They adhere to a literal interpretation of a passage from the Gospel of Mark in the King James Bible. “And these signs,” it says, “shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”

Lauren Pond began photographing Wolford and his congregation in 2011, overcoming her own fear as she shot rattlesnakes and copperheads being coiled around the arms and necks of worshippers as they reaffirmed their faith in the divine. On 23 May the following year, just before his 44th birthday, Wolford posted this message to his followers on Facebook: “Praise the lord and pass the rattlesnakes, brother.”

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