What we know
1850 - 1932
From Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. Married Millicent (Millie) Horner and felt the call1 to go to Marble Springs. In 1878, Pastor Horner established three parish churches in the Crystal River Valley. After Bridget O'Shanty ran off in his shay, he would disappear for months. He would come back from these trips wild-eyed and his sermons would thunder of Hell's Wrath. Served the churches faithfully until the last church (in Marble Springs) closed its doors in 1931. A year later, Pastor Horner was found dead in his pulpit, his fists raised toward God.
by Chris Willerton
Sometimes he envied the Apostle Paul
though he wouldn’t call it envy.
When ice rimed the wheels of the little shay
and Millie stayed home to nurse the kids,
he’d set out down the frozen road
to the little churches where the faithful waited.
Those days, he envied Paul the Holy Land’s heat.
When his eyes ached in the kerosene light
as he sifted the Letter to the Romans,
ramming his brain against the unthinkable Doctrine of Grace,
he envied Paul his intellect
and the simplicity of his times.
And when their only daughter Lottie ran away,
headed no doubt to dance halls and men,
and Millie tore her hair—
the only shrieking scene of their long marriage—
and his bowels ached as he closed up their compassion,
he envied Paul his gift of singleness.
As years went on, the pastor began to say so.
To Paul. In public. “I have not built
on another man’s foundation,”
he would say to the air.
“I count my righteousness but filthy rags,”
he would say as Millie clasped his arm
to stop the oratorical lift.
He preached till he was eighty-one,
a voice crying in a wilderness which
the mines and railroads had made fairly comfortable,
a thin voice rising into the cobwebs and empty spire
of the First Congregational Church of Marble Springs.
The Perfect Strength
by Adolph Montana
Sometimes… guilt eats at the bowels,
much like some bug that crept in
from distant tropics, perhaps
hidden in a freighter's cargo. It takes hold
and no amount of herbs or magic
would be enough to cool the burning,
stop the fevered trembling
and restore peace to the broken body.
At those times, it means nothing
to be told that anyone's grace
is sufficient1 for their strength
is made perfect in your own suffering.
Frenzied visions of poppied nights
and Bridget's warmth and wetness
gnaw at the core of what Horner
at least in the past was pleased to call
Now he calls it corrosion
and curses its existence. The Apostle's isolation
was his greatest blessing and Horner longs
for the freedom of indifference.
In the beginning,
Bridget was only flesh from the enemy.
Then somehow, a tendril of something else sprouted,
began to grow, insinuate itself into Horner's
momentary lapse in control—what had been stumbling
became a headlong fall from grace,
into the love of Bridget.
He could not tell himself
to stop, at first, or even pause. A dalliance?
How could this be love? How could it be anything
but the prelude to damnation, brimstone,
and the eternal lake of fire, the second death,
not the seemingly endless nights of little deaths
in the arms of his Bridget. Finally,
the stern rebuke2
of the other Apostle prevailed
and Bridget reacted to the words as if
pierced by a centurion's spear.
How could she
see but not perceive, not understand his torment,
turn with him, and be healed? Wallowing in her harlotry,
she must take refuge in rage and bitterness—
not the nail bed of sanctification and grace,
not Horner's mad attempt to crawl back up
the slippery walls of his fall, back to
the forgiving arms of his Apostles.
Portal caption and links
A drawing of a human right arm holding a large book, likely a bible.