Charles Clark and his wife, Judy, are interviewed by their nephew, Daniel Clark. Charles is the preacher for the Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ in Hollybrook as his father, Bernie, was before him. They describe a snake handling incident in Hollybrook that is very similar to a story told by Lee Smith in her novel, Amazing Grace. I might add that the Hollybrook story was told before the Lee Smith version was published. Perhaps this is a story that traveled from Hollybrook down the spine of the Appalchians from one church to the next. One can only speculate.
Daniel:When did you first start attending this church?
Charles: In 1974.
Daniel:Were you baptized in this church?
Charles:I wasn't baptized in that church, but it was the same affiliation, it was the Apostolic Church of the Lord Jesus Christ, that was in Pumpkin Center.
Judy: Pearisburg, VA.
Charles:OK, Pearisburg, VA.
Daniel:And uh, Where did the baptisms take place?
Charles:In a creek, in a river, New River.
Daniel:What were the baptism ceremonies like?
Charles:They would have a service, they would be singing, then a message, and then they'd take you down to the water and fully emerge you in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Daniel:Describe a baptism that you remember?
Charles:I remember one about breaking the ice down at Dismal,me and Brother Charlie Conley, and putting people down when you had to break the ice and put them in ....
Judy:Way up in the mountains in order to get to the water, where it was thin enough to get through the ice.
Daniel: Were you married in the church?
Daniel:Where were you married?
Charles:I was married in a parsonage in Mechanicsburg.
Daniel:Describe the wedding ceremony?
Charles:Well, there wasn't much to it. There wasn't no one present but my wife, and her mother and my mother. All we done was say the vows and left for Richmond.
Daniel:Are there any other weddings that are worthy of describing? That stick out in your mind, I guess.
Judy: The one without any lights.
Charles:Well, there has been all kinds that have got married and stuff.
Judy:Tell him about Jamie and Coach, where we had so many people we didn't know where to put them.
Charles:Yeah, there was one good one, I went into a church and they turn the lights down on me and it was so dark I couldn't see to read off the book, I had to stop and tell them to turn the lights up....
Judy:Turn the lights on..
Charles:And then along in the ceremony, the groom look up and said, "How am I doing?" There have been a few things that went on that had laughter to it, but it still gets the job done.
Daniel:Does your church have a graveyard?
Daniel; How were the funerals conducted?
Charles:Generally, most anymore, the funerals are held in the funeral home. We've had one person in the church and that was Brother Charlie Conley and we've had nobody since we built the new sanctuary...
Judy: We have so ....
Judy:Brother Proffitt's daddy-in-law.
Charles:Yeah, there was two.
Judy:Tell him about Bro. Proffitt's daddy-in-law's funeral.
Charles:I don't remember.
Judy:It was humorous.
Daniel:Well, go ahead.
Judy:It was very humorous, Danny, they were from the mountains in Southwest Va. and thing about them was, they had funerals like even down there now, when they go to have wake down there, they have it all night long. Like everybody goes to the church and they stay all night long, and they sit there and they do everything, they sing, they preach and they do everything. Well, they had moved back here and they wanted something similar, but they didn't want exactly that. So, we go over there, and they had a big house trailer and we go over there to have the funeral, to have the wake or so they call it. When we got over there the trailer was so small where they brought the body, they had to take the door off to get the body in, so we told them it would be best if they'd moved it outside if they wanted to have it out there because there wasn't hardly no way we could have it in there. Some of them had agreed to it so we thought they all had, and we go out on the front porch where they was going to have the service and some of us begin to sing, and we look and some of them went back into house, so we stopped and they decided they wanted to have it in the house. So me, Linda and Larry were singing. We go in and they made us stand up next to the casket and sing next to the casket and if you look down and there he laid and here we stood in about a 9 by 10 foot room. So you can imagine, there was casket, flowers, and people with musical instruments playing, and I mean you were standing right on top of the body and it was hot in there and I mean it was an experience. So we went ahead and had it and this one girl, she repented and got saved and it was a very very unusual wake and then they wanted Charles to preach and so he preached for them, it that's what they want, you do what the family wants, so he preached for them and they were just everywhere, the people was. So we turned around and the next day they were to have the funeral, so they were suppose to be at the church at 1:00 down here, and they were bringing the body from Dublin. When we got down there, the family was already down there with the body, so we opened the church and let them in and they had come, and the first thing I know they had got a video camera and they begin to make all the daughters come up and stand beside their dad, that was who had died, their daddy. They made all the daughters stand beside their dad and put their hands on his face and stuff and then they made all the sons come up and then the mother got up and they wanted the singers that sang in the funeral and they wanted the preachers. I mean it was very unusual and they got down and filmed him a laying in the casket. I mean, hey, it was one more funeral! Then they had to turn around and take him back to Dublin, VA and it poured down rain. But it was a very unusual funeral.
Daniel:Before funeral homes, how was the bodies of the deceased prepared for burial?
Judy:They was just wash and cleaned up. There was no embalming to it.
Charles:A lot of times, they would just put some kind of ointment on them, they use to anoint the body with anointing oils, I mean, they'd call it anointing the body, it was just perfumed oils and that's all they done. I can't remember any funerals like that, I'm not that old.
Daniel:Do you remember any particular preachers?
Charles:Any particular preachers? You mean preaching funerals?
Charles:Just preachers. Brother Paul Deaton, I guess was my model preacher, I'd say, I'm not really taking one over another but he just stood so long for the doctrine and the gospel. He was always conservative and preached all the way, started out with the doctrine here in this county and the surrounding counties and stayed with it until he died and lived the life, he not only preached but he lived it.
Daniel:What was his sermons like?
Charles:Fiery, as the Lord said, "He made his angels spirits and his ministers a flame of fire," and that's what they were.Hell, fire and brimstone, most of them, a lot of them.
Judy:He was always used the term, dear hearts, and he was so firm there was no foolishness about him, he never had no gestures about him of no kind when he preached a sermon. He didn't have to get anything from a book to keep your attention. He held your attention from the time he started. He always used the term dear hearts and he used tell it so many times one of his famous sayings Danny was if we went to heaven we was going to get by cheap. The way we were living now, we were going to get by cheap, because people had given their lives and we couldn't give up our tithes.
Daniel:Where did he live?
Charles:He lived in Little Creek Dublin, it's part of Dublin.
Daniel:Has your church had many revivals?
Charles:Yes we have had revivals done, different ministers came in and ministered,
Daniel:Were there any tent or camp revivals?
Charles:Yes, we have had tent, and I have worked with ministers in tent revivals, Mac Hamilton, Tommy Ramsey.
Judy:Our church was started with tent revivals.
Charles:There was a tent revival held right on where our church sits at now, it started from that Brother Mac Hamilton started it the tent revival, my dad built the church. He started the church.
Daniel:Describe what they were like?
Charles:Tent revivals was just like almost an open air service, there was mosquitoes and everything else around but there was more of a freedom feeling in a tent, there was something about a tent, there was a different atmosphere and they were generally conducted just exactly like they did in the church, they had their musical instruments and the singing, the prayers, and the preaching.
Daniel:Were there a lot of people saved?
Charles:Yes, there was quite a few, I guess, a lot of people that started out being converted in a tent, because that's the way revivals usually started was in a tent, what they called a tent revival.
Judy: Danny, one tent revival I remember, I remember them talking about when I was smaller, was they had it down here, it was on the road across from Hollybrook School House. I know a lot of times they made fun of the church, snake handling church and all this, but anyway, this Brother Paul Deaton, that Arnold talked about, got up and he preached the gospel and he was using the scriptures where it says if you take up any serpents, you know if you handled serpents or if you drank any deadly poison and he went on and quoted that scripture and some boys out of Hollybrook that was real mean, I mean we're talking mean, and they went up on the mountain and caught a rattlesnake and a copperhead and put it in a gas can and that night when Paul Deaton started preaching, they took it and threw it up on the pulpit where he was at and he just picked it. My daddy which is a very firm man, he is 84 years old and never went to church in his life, he will tell you this to this day in reference to this, and he told how they throwed them snakes up there, Paul Deaton just reached down and picked up that copperhead and it laid upon his shoulder and looked out at the people but it would never look him in the face and they preached the whole sermon with that snake looking like that and then he just took it and put it back in the can and put the lid on it. My mother said she could remember the whole rows of the two front seats cleared when he picked up that snake cause they thought he was going to throw it back out there, but he didn't. Another little brother, humble, real good man, he's dead now, and he lived the life, you never seen nothing bad out of him, he picked up the other one and help him while it went on. After that there was men in Hollybrook got saved, that had been alcoholic's for years got saved in that tent revival. There was so many people got saved, you would not believe. Even people, Danny, that never even went to church over what was seen in that service,because they knew there wasn't no show to it, only faith.
Charles:They didn't carry serpents around, them boys just heard him preaching so they just brought them in and throwed them up there.
Daniel:Who were some of the preachers that would preach?
Charles:Brother E.T. Hall, out of Richmond would come in and preach, he's the President of Southeastern Conference of the Apostolic Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Don Johnson, who is the President of the whole association of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is a pretty fame known singer too, he has a lot of recordings out and then his son, Bro. David Johnson. We've had ministers from all over, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, I can't remember them all. There was a lot of ministers came to the church.
Daniel:Are there any memorable testimonials?
Charles:Yes, one, there was this man that went to church, Charlie Conley. All of his brothers had died at a real young age with heart trouble and he had went to church and while sitting there hearing the preaching, God healed him, he had the same problem and God healed him of his. He was just sitting listening to the word, and that's where the Bible says he sent his word and healed us.
Daniel:Did many people come from far away?
Charles:Yes, we still have got people that drives an hour both ways. We've had people come from the coast of North Carolina and people come from West Virginia, Tennessee, all around to church. We've got some that drives pretty far now and still attend church regular.
Daniel:Did singing groups come from outside?
Judy:We don't allow it, no offense. Singing don't save people, Danny.
Daniel:Do you have homecomings?
Daniel:Describe what they were like?
Charles:You're talking about church homecomings, ain't you?Well, after service on Sunday, then we all go, we rent a place, a school building either a community center and we'd just go and eat and have fellowship, that would be about the extent of it.
Daniel:What did the church do for Christmas?
Charles:The church puts on a Christmas Play. They'll have a manager scene, the young people, group puts it on. They would have skits and then one main event and uh...
Judy:The church does a lot to help the poor ...
Charles:Yes, during Christmas we do
Judy:People that who is going to have Christmas, there is a couple of gentlemen in the church who doesn't have families so we always have bake goods and things like that, the church brings it in and we fix up boxes for families or if we know of homes where there is no mother or wife we fix up stuff, baked goods that they won't normally have.
Daniel:Any special services?
Charles:We have a New Year's Service, we have a New Year's Service. The only thing we have at Christmas is generally a regular service, I mean that goes on, we don't have anything but generally that night before Christmas we use the Play and that's the only service we have at Christmas.
Daniel:What would the church do at Easter?
Charles;At Easter we teach on the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, generally, to the extent that's about what we do, because we don't that much special on Easter. It's not that we don't respect Easter, we do, we try, it's not eggs and Easter bunnies.
Daniel:Has the church had any festivals and celebrations?
Charles:Well, we've had Dedication to the Church and uh...
Judy:As far as special events, we have a lot of events during the summer months a lot of cook outs and things like that, not to sell foods, but where they can have where the kids can have a get together and the grown ups and just enjoy the fellowship of one another.
Daniel:Do you remember any stories concerning weather and church?
Judy:Yes, he got up there one night and it started sleeting, we didn't think we was going to get home and then there has been nights we had to let church out early because it had started snowing real bad. So many people travel so far you had to let them go early, and then one night, we was having service and the lights went out, so they opened the doors and they had candles that they had had from a previous wedding, they lit those and the minister just kept right on preaching. They had an altar call and I think about three got saved during this service, but there was no lights whatso ever. They lit the candles from a wedding and put up front and opened the doors where as much light as could, could come in and people sat in the dark as he preached.
Daniel:Do you remember any disasters such as fire or flood where-the church helped someone?
Charles:Yes, there has been disasters in just individual families, peoples homes that has burnt down
Judy:The church ...
Charles:Yeah, Brother Terry's church, we gave money for that cause an there has been a lot of families, we gave you know, money to them. I can remember one family we gave a $1000.00 to, a couple of them $500.00 and some of them $300.00 ...
Judy:He's talking about churches ...
Daniel:Yeah, that too, and just individuals too.
Charles:and then which is a disaster all the time, Haiti, we send $15,000 a year over there ....
Judy:It's more than that now...
Charles:Yeah, I know, counting everything.. we've bought motorcycles, and sent them over and generators and trying to get them self sufficient in things so get them not to be so dependent but most of it goes to the gospel and the children ...
Charles:Yeah, we helped a lot of churches building, money to have them built.
Daniel:. Are there very many disagreements amongst the congregation?
Charles:Well, there could be among the individuals, but there hasn't been much about none about the church. I'm just a firm believer, we don't have a board of deacons like that, the pastor is set over the church, we don't have many problems. Everybody tries to work together ...
Judy:Pulls together ....
Charles:It's not, we just don't have any disagreements hardly. Sometimes, you know, difference between people or some person, but nothing, or arguing or fussing, generally,they get along ok. Everything has worked out, if you want to know how we worked it out, we just talked it out we'd sit down and talk and come to a agreement, that's just all there's is and it works like that.
Daniel:Describe a typical Sunday morning when you were a child, from the time you got up until the time you went to bed.
Charles:A typical Sunday morning, when I was a child was first we got up eat breakfast and then you go out and feed up all the livestock and then there was a time we'd milk cows, you'd do that and then you came in and got ready for church. You'd go to Sunday school and generally when you came back home it'd be dinner and there would be two or three other children that would come home with us and then we'd get out and play until Sunday evening to feed again and then we'd feed up, eat and back to church. Went to church for three or four hours then go back home and go to bed.
Daniel:What would you wear to church?
Charles:Well, most of the time then it was what ever you had, really I can't remember, we had sort of like denim jeans, as I can remember, shoes, were typical of work shoes today. I mean, we wore the same things, just clean clothes is all that I can say you know, there was nothing special about it.
Daniel:Would there be socializing after church?
Charles:Yes, you know, the usual talk with most people women, mom, relate work and stuff. There wouldn't be a long gathering, they'd just be between individuals.
Daniel:What would Sunday dinner be like?
Charles:The table would be full, my mom, she still does it today, but uh it would be them and like I said there would always be company most of the time came to our house and there was always plenty to eat. It was almost like a picnic, Sunday!
Daniel:What was breakfast like?
Charles:Breakfast was eggs and bacon and milk, gravy and biscuits. Generally, that was your breakfast once in a while we'd have pancakes. We used to grow buckwheat and we'd have it ground and make buckwheat and make flour. We growed our own molasses, our cane, made our own molasses so you'd have buckwheat cakes and molasses.
Daniel:Describe the happiest moment that you've ever had at church.
Charles:The happiest moment that I've ever had at church.
Judy:He said one of the happiest moment you've had at church. When you dedicated the children.
Charles:Well, I guess that could be it, the dedication, there's a lot of things, the dedication of my grandsons, but also, seeing my children saved you know, I mean, my brothers and sisters and their families. That's the most happiest of all is seeing souls saved.
Daniel:The saddest moment.
Charles:The saddest moment is the funerals of my son's fiancÈe and then Brother Charlie with the church too. I mean, Brother Charlie was up in age and we know that some day he was going to die, it was a sad moment and everything but I guess Pam was the worst.
Daniel:What was the greatest religious experience you've ever had?
Charles:Receiving the Holy Ghost, speaking in tongues was the evidence of that, Ah my ministry is a great, I guess we just go from blessing to blessing, I can't look back and say that something has been the greatest, because as you grow in grace in the Lord Jesus Christ, things et better, so I guess I'm still looking for the greatest experience. I'd say that would be when we're resurrected, changed, you know.
Daniel:Is there anything else you'd like to share concerning the memories of the church or your religious upbringing?
Charles:Just that I'd like to say that I thank the Lord that I had parents that went to church and was dedicated to the church and that I was called in the ministry and God made it so that I could be a minister. I didn't want to live off the gospel, I work myself, that's what I have done and thank God for 17 years we haven't took up collections to support the church, people give freely.
Judy:For 18 years.
Charles:For 18 years.
Judy:We've never been without.
Charles:We've never been short on anything, God has always provided..
Judy: Even in our home as well as the church.
Daniel:Your father was a minister to, right?
Charles:He didn't claim to be a minister, he was just a leader he taught in the church. He had other people come in and minister and he just always looked at himself as a leader in the church. I mean, he taught and everything and you know, you have to say anybody that does that has to be a minister but, he never recognized himself as a minister, he more or less put it that he was a leader one to oversee a church.
Daniel:And where did he start his church at?
Charles:The first church was started at Pumpkin Center, where he built, most of his family members up there. He kept that church going after a lot of them had moved away or either went back on the Lord. He kept it going, but he always wanted to build a bigger church a better church and uh so 1975 around in there, I had just came by from Richmond, the job I had down there I had been working for nine years, the Lord had called me back up here, I didn't know the reason, but, now I know, but, anyway we built the church that I pastor now.
Daniel:Was his father before him a preacher or anything like that?
Charles:He was a religious man, they went to church, they were part of the church, when my dad first started, they were already in church, they .. I can't remember back when they wasn't Christians, so I don't remember that they .. I surely think that they was up in their 20's or 30's when they got saved..
Judy:They all use to talk about how they use to worship in the along the roads.
Charles:One thing I can remember the people back then, the Northern' Lights, people feared God and it's not fanatical or nothing, like some people might find it humorous today, but it wasn't. I remember when the Northern Lights began to shine and it was the first time they had ever seen them and the scriptures were in the Bible that the moon would be turned to blood and they seen them and I remember just being a little child, I guess that's been 45 years ago and they all got down and began to pray. They were all in church when this happen and they thought the Lord was coming, that it was happening right then and they feared the Lord, I mean, they knew what was going to happen, but I never knew for a long time what it was but after a long time, after education and stuff I learned what it was, the Northern Lights shining, but they thought it was taking place.
Daniel:What's the most amazing spiritual thing that you have seen in church?
Charles:Amazing spiritual thing that I have seen in a church.The most amazing spiritual thing that I have seen is healing in the churches. There's been people, you know, there's been people sick and God healed them. I guess, I wouldn't, I shouldn't say that because healing is.. Saving is more than anything and I've seen this one girl that didn't know much of anything about God, and she come and repented and then was baptized and when she was baptized she came out of the water speaking in tongues, with the Holy Ghost and that let you know that it's not something that somebody woos on you or psyched you out, for you to get this happen just the way it's suppose to happen and I think to me that's the greatest spiritual ... after all that's what matters, the born again experience healing isn't going to get you to heaven, but that will. That's the most spiritual amazing thing. I have seened people healed that I have prayed for, miracles happened, they were given up for dead, and they look like death, in bad shape and the Lord healed them.
Daniel:Could describe a few?
Charles:Brother Wallace French had a tumor on the brain and he kept having bad headaches. He went to Charlottesville and they couldn't find a tumor and Dr. McConnell is my physician in Wytheville found the tumor and sent him back down there and they told they would have to operate on him and he'd died if he didn't do it and he was there and during his stay and the Lord spoke to him that if he would repent, quit drinking and smoking and stuff that he would heal him and he done it and left the hospital. They told him he would have to come back, so he asked me about going back and get checked out and see if he still had it, he said he didn't have anymore headaches, so he went back and they told him they wouldn't check him, you've got and the Lord may do some things, but you've got it and you've got to have that operated on. Well, he just packed his clothes and left and come back to Dr. McConnel, Dr. McConnel had checked him so, Dr. McConnel was my physician, so I was going to test him I guess, to see what he was going to say, for he didn't know that I knew Wallace French, and I told him there was a man that goes to church over where I go to church at and I told him the story and I said, you found that and he said the Lord healed him, "Do you believe that?" The doctor said, "Well he doesn't have anymore headaches does he?" The healing that was outward, a big healing, I guess, was the young boy up in Charleston that had sinuses that had eat a hole in his skull. It went into his brain and he was just in a coma, his eyes was all bulged out and they thought he wouldn't live and if he did live he would be a vegetable for the rest of his life and the Lord had led me while I was up there praying for somebody else to pray for him and I had just prayed and I couldn't feel anything and I tried to agree, the Lord say to agree with someone and he would heal and I tried to do that and I didn't have no feeling in that, :and something just uh, the Lord just spoke to me if you'd just get down here on your knees on the floor before all the doctors and everything and asked me to heal him, I'll do it and I did, and I told them when I left God would heal him. He's going to be healed and in less than three weeks, he was out of there, and he was making better grades than he had before when I seen him, I ran into the family up in Charleston, and I just.. and then when I recognized them, they recognized me first, they said ain't you that preacher man and I said yes, and I said by the way, "How's your son doing?" He said, "right there he stands, ask him!" I didn't know him, I recognize his folks when they hollered at me and uh but God miraculous him, I mean that was done because, they had him on life support and everything and he was just ... the doctors had just said there wasn't any hope for him. If a miracle happened, he wouldn't have a mind, held be as a vegetable, but God healed him. His mother said they said he wouldn't have a mind, but he does better in school than he done before. It was about six weeks or seven since I had prayed for him, I had forgot about until I seen them and I didn't know I'd run into up there in Charleston at a store. Amen!
Daniel Clark RGHS 1995