That night when I got home and was looking through the literally hundreds of pictures I took that day while touring McDowell County this picture kept sticking out in my mind. I wanted to know more. What was the story of this church?
According to Homer Hickam’s Memoir “Rocket Boys” and pictures from http://www.coalwoodwestvirginia.com a website maintained by a former resident of Coalwood I can identify this church as Mudhole Church later called Mt Zion United Methodist Church. This was Reverend Richard’s church! Homer spoke of the church and Reverend Richard in his memoir as quoted below:
At the entrance to Mudhole was a tiny wooden church presided over by the Reverend “Little” Richard. He was dubbed “Little” because of his resemblance to the soul singer. Nobody up Mudhole Hollow subscribed to the paper, but whenever I had an extra one, I always left it at the little church, and over the years, the Reverend Richard and I became friends. I loved it when he had a moment to come out on the church porch and tell me a quick Bible story while I listened, astride my bike, fascinated by his sonorous voice. I especially admired his description of Daniel in the lions’ den. When he acted out with bug-eyed astonishment the moment Daniel’s captors looked down and saw their prisoner lounging around in the pit with his arm around the head of a big lion, I laughed appreciatively. “That Daniel, he knew the Lord,” the Reverend summed up with a chuckle while I continued to giggle, “and it made him brave. How about you, Sonny? Do you know the Lord?”
I had to admit I wasn’t certain about that, but the Reverend said it was all right. “God looks after fools and drunks,” he said with a big grin that showed off his gold front tooth, “and I guess he’ll look after you too, Sonny Hickam.” Many a time in the days to come, when I was in trouble, I would think of Reverend Richard and his belief in God’s sense of humor and His fondness for ne’er-do-wells. It didn’t make me as brave as old Daniel, but it always gave me at least a little hope the Lord would let me scrape by.
It makes my heart happy and a little more content to know that this little church is still standing and still maintained in Coalwood today.