Thanks to an archivist at Dakota Wesleyan University, where at least one cousin has been a student in recent years, studying with the liberal icon George McGovern, I have been learning more about my great-great grandfather’s youngest brother, who was a minister in the Methodist Church for thirty years.
My uncle once recalled a story where his father, my grandfather, dismissively described the Reverend Darling as a “fire and brimstone” preacher.¹ Apparently, the reverend had given a sermon at the church² in Lake Preston, where his brother’s family and descendants attended, and Grandpa Hill was less than impressed. He and my uncle weren’t big on Christianity.
The oldest son, my father, however, is a devout conservative Christian. It makes for interesting family dynamics. You say dysfunctional, and I say we need a different, stronger, more complex descriptor.
Methodism these days has strayed far from those fire and brimstone days. Nowadays, Pastor Darling would not be welcome among most United Methodist congregations. Hell is an unpopular subject, as is sin.
1. Fire and brimstone (or, alternatively, brimstone and fire, translated from the Hebrew גפרית ואש) is an idiomatic expression of signs of God’s wrath in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) and the New Testament. In the Bible, they often appear in reference to the fate of the unfaithful.
2. I’m glad to hear that the church is now home to the town museum, rather than being torn down or empty.