A Pentecostal pastor famed for handling snakes during church sermons has died after being bitten by a rattlesnake.
Mark “Mack” Wolford, 44, was well-known across the US state of Virginia for his lively church services, which included handling dangerous snakes in a ‘test of faith’. But the pastor died after being bitten by a rattlesnake he had owned for years, mirroring the death of his own father in 1983.
Holding an outdoor service in which serpents where passed around among church members, Wolford was bitten in the thigh by a yellow rattlesnake as he sat on the floor next to it. The service was quickly disbanded as the pastor was taken to family member’s house to recover, but he later died in hospital from poisoning.
Wolford had been bitten on three previous occasions, but did not seek medical attention as he regarded the injury as a test of faith.
“He helped me to understand the faith instead of just documenting it,” photographer and eyewitness Lauren Pond told the Washington Post. “He was one of the most open pastors I’ve ever met. He was a friend and a teacher.”
“I didn’t see the bite, I saw the aftermath” she added.
The group of serpent handlers follow the gospel of Mark, which states: “And these signs will follow
those who believe...they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”