David Rule, known to Powell Countians as Bro. Rule, in a portrait by Tim Webb.
David Eugene Rule, better known throughout Powell County as “Brother Rule,” died Aug. 6, 2012. His influence on me, particularly my writing style, was tremendous. I owe him much gratitude; I’m thankful I had the chance to let him know this.
I can’t imagine how many others can say similar things about what he meant to their lives. He might be the only truly good man I’ve ever met. He didn’t just preach love, he lived it.
His impact will be felt for lifetimes.
I wrote this for The Clay City Times after Bro. Rule’s retirement in late 1997. I share it in memory of all the good this man did for Powell Countians throughout his life. For anyone who doesn’t know why this man was so beloved, or for those who want to remember his love, read on and share with family and friends:
As David Rule closed the door to the First Presbyterian Church of Stanton, he ended 42 years of service to his God, his church and his community. The cold December wind blew outside, but inside, just moments prior, the church was filled with the warm memories the congregation shared from Rule’s years of service.
Faces both recognized and unfamiliar filled the pews, all having come to say goodbye to David Eugene Rule, affectionately dubbed Brother Rule by his congregation. Sitting inside the church, still decorated with green wreathes and red velvet ribbons, people shared stories both sad and humorous about their beloved minister.
“When my husband (Amon) was injured, Bro. Rule was the only one who believed he would survive,” said Mary Back. “He never had any doubts. The doctors told us he wouldn’t live. He was unconscious for six weeks, and every day the doctors told us he would be gone before night came. If he did make it, he’d be a vegetable. Bro. Rule was the only one who truly believed. He’s always been there for us.”
Others in the church shared this sentiment, echoing the words that “he’s always been there for us.” Virginia Reed said: “We are sorry to see him leave, but he’s been wanting to retire. He’s always been there for us, happy times and sad times. He helped see us through them.”
Rule, however, wasn’t active just in his church. “They’ve been an inspiration, not just for our church but for our whole community,” said Linda Gail Nolan. “A lot of people in the community, even though they didn’t attend church here, say he’s one of the most respected persons they know. It’s been such a ministry to all the county with all the years he’s gone to the schools. It’s not just our church that’s been touched by his ministry.”
Rule has conducted Bible stories and songs at all of Powell County’s schools since the early days of his ministry. “Over the past 40 years, David Rule’s spiritual guidance to the county’s school children has had a profound impact,” said Bertha Hurst, retired teacher. “As many teachers can attest, the mere mention of Bro. Rule’s arrival at school brought smiles and excitement to the children’s faces. What child cannot remember that package of candy from Bro. Rule?”
Rule’s outreach extended outside the schools, as well. “When I was driving the bookmobile in the early ‘70s,” said Bonnie Reed, “I would see children with no shoes and families with no blankets. I’d go to Bro. Rule, and before dark they’d have shoes and blankets. This wasn’t just one time but many times.”
Rule’s involvement with schools touched his life as much as the children, according to Rule’s daughter, Esther. “Someone wrote him a letter about how much he’d meant to her going to the schools. That was the only exposure she’d had to God. At first I thought he was laughing, but he was choking up. He said to my mother, ‘I don’t feel worthy.’”
Rule’s retirement, though, was met with more than just sad stories. Many came to celebrate, along with saying goodbye to an old friend. “David Rule has meant a lot to me and my life,” said Henry Harrison of Crestwood. “When I as a little kid they came here to start their ministry. It’s an important day to celebrate his ministry.”
Ron Herald laughed as he told of his introduction to Bro. Rule. On his second service at the church, Herald stayed around late to shake hands with Rule. As he was talking with the pastor, Maude Harris came up to rule, put her arms around him and hugged his shoulder. “She said, ‘We’ve had our pastor here for so many years, and he’s such a good pastor. I’ve heard this man preach some of the best sermons in my life,’” said Herald. “She turned to walk away and said, ‘Of course, I’ve hear some real stinkers, too.’ I always remember that because Bro. Rule took it so well.”
Some members of the church laughed as they recalled Rule’s bad driving and equally as bad jokes. “When I was a teenager and rode with him to Bible school, I knew God was with him after we rode with him a while,” said Elouise Rose. “I’m thankful I survived his driving and his bad jokes while driving to teach at Dessie Scott Children’s Home.”
Throughout the day, mixed with the sadness of saying goodbyes and the smiles from the memories was a sense of amazement of Rule’s 42 years at one church. Church elder Billy Harrison read a piece by the late Maude Harris, 10 years prior:
In came this young curly headed boy with this little timid girl by his side (she has been by his side ever since). I believe he was holding her hand. I said to someone, “Who in the world is that?” I was told ‘”That’s our new preacher and his wife.” I thought, “Oh my goodness, we are ruined.”
I went home and thought about this unfortunate situation and what on earth we were going to do about it. I said to myself, “I hope that little wife is not the gossipy kind, sowing discord among the members” – and she is not.
“I hope he is not lazy” – and he’s not.
“I hope he doesn’t belittle other churches” – and he doesn’t.
“I hope he’ll have a Sunday night service, even if few come” – and he does.
“I hope he’ll visit the sick and comfort the broken-hearted” – and he does.
“I hope he isn’t a preacher with itching ears” – and he’s not.
When he had been here 20 years, someone asked Mina (Atkinson) “how do you keep a preacher so long?” Mina said, “We love him.”
The current congregation still loves David Rule and his family. “The whole family has walked in the light of God’s word and have witnessed to us and ministered to us, I’m sure just as Christ would have done,” said Elouise Rose.
Rule, however, accepted the praise with his usual humbleness.
“Whatever I may have done,” said Rule, “it wasn’t human effort but through God.”