This is a finely reconstructed account of a charismatic leader who moved into a town and changed nearly everything about it. We like Lewan’s opening paragraphs: His language suggests legend or origin myth—the tribal elder saying, “Have a seat, young ones, and I’ll tell you the story of how all of this came to be.” Except there’s also irony to the language, double entendre, which enrichens and deepens Lewan’s relationship with his readers.
We did wish Lewan had reported more on the daily life of the group, had gotten in there to taste its flavor. We guessed access was an issue, and we emailed Lewan to ask about his reporting. This was his response:
“I would have loved to interview current members of Meade Ministries. However this is an extreme group with extreme views of the press. (Journalists are defined as being ‘of the devil,’ and group members never speak to them.) Members are not allowed to read the newspaper, let alone talk with a reporter. During 11 months of reporting, I tried—over and over, on the phone, in writing, in person—to talk with members, but was shunned. End Timers not only zip up, they watch what other members do and report everything to the leadership.
“The first person I approached for this story was Charles Sparks, who, as it turns out, is the odds-on favorite to succeed Charles Meade when Meade passes. He wanted to know why I was even contemplating a story on his group, and when I told him that I wanted to write about how his group had affected Lake City he vowed, ‘You will not speak with a single member of our group. No one will comment for this story.’ Turns out, he was right.”
Read “Thy Kingdom Come,” by Todd Lewan