The True Gospel Preached Here
The documentary of Reverend H. D. Dennis's lost, one-of-a-kind, nondenominational church and treasure of folk art
Bruce West's color photographs document the spiritual and creative work of a self-proclaimed preacher, artist, architect, the Reverend H. D. Dennis, and his wife, Margaret, in Vicksburg, Mississippi. This book explores the fantastic world of the elderly couple who devoted more than twenty years of their lives to converting Margaret's Grocery store into a one-of-a-kind nondenominational church. Guided by visions from God, their elaborate transformation of Margaret's Grocery involved the construction of several towers, the creation of the Ark of the Covenant containing tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments, and new religious iconography. A sign at the entrance announced: "Welcome Jews and Gentile This Church Open 24 Hours a Day. " Another sign promised: "The True Gospel Preached Here. " Bands of high-gloss red, white, blue, green, yellow, and pink paint covered the towers and exterior. Religious artifacts, Mardi Gras beads, plastic flowers, hubcaps, and flashing Christmas lights encrusted the interior walls and ceilings and an old school bus. The Reverend used his church as a roadside attraction to lure seekers so that he could deliver fiery sermons and orations about the need to "practice living perfectly" and the ceaseless pursuit of spiritual wisdom.
The product of twenty years of labor and multiple site visits, West's photographs are both intimate and transparent, tenderly revealing the Reverend and Margaret's love of God and for one another, their commitment to their work, and their shared transformation while aging together. The images offer unique insights into the role of spirituality in southern folk art and creativity and the joys and demands of an ascetic and inspired life.
A profound look at faith and visionary art. Bruce West has crafted a luminous testimonial to the joys and mysteries of the human spirit.- Keith Carter
We have all seen these roadside signs and symbols sliding by at a high rate of speed. Now Bruce West has chronicled this spiritual make-do idiom for all eternity. And it's about time!- William R. Dunlap
I believe that a photograph never lies about the photographer. Bruce West's heart has obviously been touched by this missionary couple of the True Gospel Church. Because they made an impression on him, his tender photographs have given us a delightful rendering of their mission.- Chester Higgins
It is with a rare, clear, and generous persistence of care that Bruce West invites us into the sacred home place of the Rev. H. D. and Margaret Rogers Dennis. Largely unseen and unheralded, the wonder of this fabulous and isolated red, white, pink, and yellow kaleidoscopic creation known as Margaret's Gro. & Mkt. and Bible Class will remain 'Open 7 Days a Week' for us all through the publication of The True Gospel Preached Here.- Deborah Luster
West's photographs are at once inventive and clear, suggesting the nature of the place as well as the disorienting energy—hypnotic, claustrophobic, and otherworldly—of actually being there. Imbued with a profound quality of respect and affection, these eloquent pictures reflect West's desire both to see and to celebrate. Through his eyes, the Dennises' simple but vibrant life finds its perfect commemoration.- Keith F. Davis, senior curator of photography at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art