Was it serendipitous to discover a gem in the person of Larry Powell ensconced in the countryside along Acklin Gap Road?
Unquestionably, for here is a man of many talents which he has managed to keep restrained, a churchman, builder, author - qualities that have defined this unobtrusive, soft-spoken, low key charming man.
For 45 years, he labored in the vineyards of the Methodist Church preaching mostly in rural territories but he had his turn in large city churches along the way. And when he retired, he turned to writing with a peculiar earnestness, becoming a writer of style, versatility and narrative structure.
Some eight book published in recent years have marked his biography which also mentions a large number of papers, essays newspaper articles, magazine stories and the like.
He, at one time, found a home in the Arkansas Gazette columns of Charles Allbright contributing often. “Several of my articles are included in Allbright’s book, Arkansas Traveler,” he said.
And for eight years he wrote Sunday school lessons for the Arkansas Methodist newspaper.
It was, of course, in the Methodist Church where he obtained his fulfillment, writing and preaching. From Nettleton where he was born and schooled early on, he traveled to Hendrix College, the Chandler School of Theology, and Emory University, where he garnered honors.
Powell lives with his wife Terri in an impressive house atop a hill, with a breath taking view overlooking pastoral fields and wooded hillsides. The house is his crowning glory, it might be said. He had much to do with its building and more in the work as an expert gardener, giving the place a vista that meets the eye from a wide angle swath of windows in the house. Hummingbirds abound in feeders seen hanging outside of the windows.
He is a tenacious fellow. “When I start something I finish it,” he says. “I do nothing in moderation; I expect a lot of my tools, a lot of my body.” He maintains a rigorous regimen of exercises - tread mills, etc., and walks daily up and down the hills that define the property. “I quit what I’m doing when I finish - and not before,” he said explaining the intensity that accompanies his projects - writing, building, yard work and the like. He mentioned being obsessive compulsive, a wry smile creasing his face.
If one were to label him an improbable preacher, he would agree. It was a surprise even to himself that he found himself headed for the ministry while he was a student. It was a career path he never would have fancied, never envisioned
He explains his quandary. “I could not even talk, let alone speak before an audience.” But he conquered his liability; he became surprisingly adept at speaking, overcoming the pain and disturbance of stuttering, so much so that he was twice invited to be the preaching chaplain of the noted Chataquah Institute in New York.
His vitae says he spent six weeks as an exchange minister on the Isle of Man, taught Bible courses at WestArk College in Fort Smith, wrote a lesson series for curriculum used throughout the Methodist denomination, served as a trustee for Mt. Sequoyah Jurisdictional Assembly and as a trustee of the Methodist Children’s home.
Praise has been heaped on him for his speaking proclivity.
His sermons won plaudits not only because of learned topics but also for the style he pursued in his delivery. Never reading from the written word; his sermons always distinctly spoken aloud.
Dennis Schick of the Arkansas Press Association and a member of the Lakewood United Methodist Church where Powell preached at one time says: “His sermons were very thoughtful, really wonderful in how they make you think.”
Another view from the Lakewood church: “Larry was a strong pulpit preacher, one of the strongest we’ve ever had.”
His book “Stones” makes a case in point. It is a “chronologically composed collection of mostly humorous, often self-deprecating, bite-sized anecdotes, selected from a broad spectrum of his experiences extending across the author’s years in pastoral ministry. And if the reader enjoys anecdotal reading, when the twists and turns are not always predictable, this opportunity to look over the author’s shoulder as he views his ministry in the rear view mirror, is always available.”
One book he authored includes poems and essays, affixed where they face each other. The poems were written in the 1970s. “My wife asked what I would do with them. And I said nothing. She said publish them for me and I did.”
He seems to be partial to his recently published “Devreaux’s Appointment” in which interesting characters prevail, like an enigmatic church superintendent, the church member in charge of porno films shown at the fire department, the “unpredictable” church organist and even an unknown assassin.
One gets the feeling that Powell had a happy grin on his face as he painted his characters, many improbable.
His next project? Another book, probably, “If the notion strikes me.”