I discovered late last year that the community in which I pastor is a real-life counterpart to Wendell Berry’s fictional town of Port William, Kentucky. Though I’ve pastored here for nearly seven years, I only discovered the affinity between Henry County, Virginia, and Berry’s Port William when I was introduced to—and subsequently binge-read my way through—his Port William novels.
Our community shares much in common with Port William. My congregants recall with affection their days planting and harvesting tobacco, flue-curing it in barns, and selling it in auction houses. They remember the transition from mule-drawn plows to tractors. Like the citizens of Port William, the people of Henry and neighboring Franklin counties recall with wry smiles the days when home-brewed corn whiskey was almost as common as peach preserves.
These similarities and others make Berry’s novels particularly fascinating and refreshing to me. Reading his accounts of Port William has enabled me to see my own community with new eyes and begin ministering more effectively within it.
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