Religion: Working Christianity

On a rainy night in 1941, a young Presbyterian minister and his dark-haired bride arrived at their first parish. Scotts Run, near Morgantown, West Va., was a drab example of a drab species—the coalmining community. In its unpainted houses set among barren yards lived 5,000 mine folk. But Scotts Run was just where the Reverend Richard Charles Smith wanted to live.

Son of a Standard Oil tax specialist and educated at Michigan's Hope College and Princeton Theological Seminary, thin-faced Pastor Smith had planned to work among miners. When the Presbyterian Board of National Missions offered him the Scotts Run post, he jumped...