Recently I celebrated 15 years as pastor of a congregation in East Texas of under 200 members with about half of them present for Sunday worship. At denominational meetings and around town I’m asked, “When are you going to a bigger church? Why do you stay?” Sometimes I give a long, rambling explanation, but often I respond with, “Because I read too much Wendell Berry.”
I’ve been reading Berry since ’80 or ’81. I discovered his essays while serving a rural congregation. I was looking for any insight I could get into the life of my congregants. At the same time, I was beginning to explore the issues of hunger, poverty, agriculture and economics. Somewhere I found a footnote mentioning Wendell Berry. One book led me to another; it wasn’t long before I was reading everything I could find of Berry’s.
Kyle Childress is pastor of Austin Heights Baptist Church in Nacogdoches, Texas, and author, with Rodney Wallace Kennedy, of Will Campbell, Preacher Man: Essays in the Spirit of a Divine Provocateur (Cascade).