Mountain Holiness

A Photographic Narrative

  • Author(s): McCauley, Deborah Vansau, and Laura E. Porter
  • Series:
  • Imprint: Univ Tennessee Press
  • Publication Date: 2003-03-28
  • Status: Active
  • Available in Paper: Price $28.00 | Buy Now

“A remarkable achievement. Mountain Holiness combines Warren Brunner’s poignant and sensitive photographs with a succinct narrative by Deborah McCauley, the preeminent authority on Appalachian mountain religion. This is a landmark study that sheds light on one of the most neglected subjects in American religion.”—Randall Balmer, Ann Whitney Olin Professor of American Religion, Barnard College, Columbia University

Hidden deep in the hills of central Appalachia, tiny churches have quietly carried on their worship practices in an unbroken chain for two centuries. Harking back to the camp-meeting movement of the early nineteenth century, independent Holiness churches are considered by some to represent Appalachia’s single largest religious tradition. Yet it is one that remains uncounted in any census of American church life because of the lack of formal institutions or written records. Through vivid images and perceptive words, this book documents this rich history, showing how these independent churches have sustained both faith and followers.

The authors spent five years interviewing and photographing Appalachia’s Holiness people and participating in their services. From thousands of photographs, they have selected nearly three hundred fifty images for this large-format volume. Here are small one-room churches—many built to hold no more than a dozen people—scattered in the hills of Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia. Yet Warren Brunner’s striking images depict not only buildings but also the people and their faith practices: river baptisms and homecomings, serpent handling and tent evangelism, radio preaching and special holiday services.

Deborah McCauley and Laura Porter’s text combines descriptions of the pictures with the history of the churches and interviews with members. They create a representative window into the material and oral culture of central Appalachia’s independent Holiness heritage. Mountain Holiness is a book that will fascinate anyone who cares about these traditions, as well as anyone concerned with the preservation of America’s most vital folkways.

About the Authors: Deborah Vansau McCauley is a leading authority onreligion in Appalachia and is the author of Appalachian Mountain Religion: A History.

Laura E. Porter became familiar with Appalachian religion while pursuing a Master of Divinity degree at Union Theological Seminary; she is presently a computer consultant for religious and relief organizations.

Warren E. Brunner is a renowned photographer of Appalachia who has lived and worked in Berea, Kentucky, for nearly half a century. He has published three collections of photographs of the region. Patricia Parker Brunner, his wife, is an ordained Southern Baptist deacon who holds an M.A. in biblical studies.