BELL COUNTY, Ky. (WYMT)
Cody Coots is well aware of the threat that comes by mixing religion with venomous snakes. His father, Jamie Coots, died earlier this month from a snake bite in Bell County.
Cody Coots told WYMT's Angela Sparkman his faith lives on through his father's snake-handling legacy.
At 21 years old, Cody Coots is now the pastor at the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name Church in Middlesboro.
"I never thought I'd been 21 years old and the pastor," Coots said.
He took over after the unexpected death of his father, 42 year old Jamie Coots. He died last week when a snake he was handling bit him during service.
"It was very tough being in here over the weekend without him," he said.
The younger Coots carried Saturday evening worship just as his father did. He even brought the snake whose bite killed his father.
"The snake that bit and killed dad, I had no fear of handling it whatsoever," he said.
Cody Coots says he carried on just as his father would have wanted.
"We're still strong in the faith. If he was here right now, he'd tell you it was the word of God," Coots said.
Cody Coots handled the same snake during service with no fear or reservations.
"The reason why I picked up that snake is because the Lord let me know it was okay to pick it up. It wasn't to show anybody I could do it or to show anybody my faith. I was just obeying the word of God," he said.
He says he will continue to handle the same snake in worship services.
Cody Coots is a fourth generation snake-handling pastor.
It is a story making national headlines and it is right in our own backyard. Middlesboro pastor and well-known snake handler Jamie Coots was bitten during a church service Saturday. He later died.
Snake handling is a rare but not unheard of practice in some southern churches.
At the Davidson Baptist Church in the Grapevine Community of Perry County, Pastor Peter Youmans is well-versed in the intricate details of the Bible.
"The idea of doing this is not really an exhibition of faith but really an exhibition of foolishness. It is tempting god and expecting him to do something," said Youmans.
He refers to a passage from the Book of Mark, Chapter 16.
"They shall take up serpents and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them," said Youmans.
It is that phrase that inspired men like Jamie Coots and his congregation. In a 2012 interview, he said he handled snakes because that is what God wanted him to do.
"I would rather die and leave these walks of life with a serpent bite knowing it is people standing around me praying as to be in a car wreck and people standing around me cussing," said Coots.
However, Youmans said these actions are more of a challenge to him.
"Just because the passage suggests that it would be possible to be free from injury, that does not mean that we should do that and be tempting God," said Youmans.
Instead, he suggests looking to God's lessons that are preached repeatedly.
"This is only mentioned once but the other things of loving god, loving people, living holy, those things are mentioned all through the Old Testament and the New Testament. That is what people are looking for," said Youmans.
Jamie Coots' funeral will be Tuesday night at 8 o'clock. The service will be held at Creech Funeral Home in Middlesboro.
A church community mourns the death of a pastor best known for handling dangerous snakes as an act of worship.
Middlesboro Police say Jamie Coots died after a snake bit him during a church service Saturday night.
Pastor Coots always maintained the snakes he used in services would never hurt him, so long as he had the power of God.
"We use them in our religious ceremonies," he told reporters in a 2013 interview, "and I believe, as for me, if I don't have them there to use, then I'm not obeying the word of God."
During a church service Saturday night, a rattlesnake bit Coots on the right hand.
Instead of seeking medical treatment, Family members took Coots to his home where he later died.
"I don't believe in going to the doctor for a snake bite. I believe it's the Bible you're supposed to do it. If you trust God to do it, you need to trust God when you get bit," said Cody Coots, the pastor's son.
Family and friends acknowledge their practices might seem odd to those unaccustomed to them, but more than the snakes, they say they will remember Coots for being a kind and loving man of God.
"He had mercy when nobody else had it. He had love when nobody else had it," said Cody Wynn, a friend of Coots.
Coots had gained national fame for starring in National Geographic's "Snake Salvation," which showcased the snake handling practices of his Bell County congregation.
"I don't think it's dangerous, it's the word of God, and we always said it's a good way to live by and it's a good way to die by," said Cody Coots.
Friends and family say Coots died doing what he loved.
Jamie Coots was 42 years old.
Services for Pastor Coots will be Tuesday at Creech Funeral Home.
Visitation is at 5 p.m. and the funeral is at 8 p.m.
The burial will be private.
A Bell County pastor, and star of the reality TV show "Snake Salvation," died Saturday evening.
Jamie Coots,42, gained national fame from the show and his snake-handling worship habits.
His son, Cody Coots, says his father's last service was a special one.
"It was a church service like I'd not seen in a long time," said Coots, "Everybody was getting in, shouting, taking up serpents,speaking in tongues, handling fire. I mean you could just feel the power of God."
Until one of the snakes made an unexpected move.
Cody said the snake that bit his father had been handled in church hundreds of times.
He says when he saw his fathers' reaction to the injury he knew something was terribly wrong and took him to his home nearby.
"We were riding back and he just took one big deep breath. I kept smacking him in the face saying, 'Dad talk to me, come on just get responsive,'" said Coots, "and after he passed out in the bathroom, his last words were, 'sweet Jesus.' And that was it."
Police say Coots refused medical treatment for the bite, something his son was not surprised by.
"If he would've lived and he would've woke up in a hospital he would've blamed every one of us," said Coots.
His son says though the family is still in shock, they're relying on their faith and wisdom learned from Jamie.
"He always told me no matter what happens you always keep the snakes here," said Coots, "and you always stand on what I've taught you."
Cody says he plans to continue handling snakes in their church in Bell County.