By KYLE LOVERN
BLUEFIELD – A preacher from nearby Mercer County died from a rattlesnake bite after a religious ceremony this past weekend.
Mark Randall “Mack” Wolford, 44, was pronounced dead Monday morning at Bluefield Regional Medical Center.
The incident allegedly occurred at Panther State Forest near Iaeger.
Wolford was the pastor of the House of the Lord Jesus in Matoaka. A similar congregation, the Church of Lord Jesus in Jolo, located in McDowell County, was part of a documentary about snake handling worship services.
That documentary was filmed by New York resident Karen Kramer in the late 1970s.
The congregations at these churches are known to practice the ritual because of the verse from Mark 16:18, which states: “They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”
Some parishioners see the practice as the ultimate show of their faith. They are known to take up deadly rattlers and copperheads and drink poison.
Reports say that Wolford had been bitten three times in the past.
Wolford was apparently part of an outdoor homecoming service at the camping and picnic area.