Beyond the Sea
* "Father" Kenneth
Community Organizer and Spiritualist
The man who nows goes by the moniker of “Father” Kenneth was born Kenneth Chamberlain. Kenneth served his country by joining the U.S. Army in 1992, becoming a combat medic with the 101st Airborne Division “Screaming Eagles.” As part of the “Screaming Eagles” he was one of the first conventional US troops leading the invasion of Iraq in 2003. In 2004, Kenneth was too close to an IED that left large metal shards embedded in his hip. After six months in military hospitals and seven surgeries, Kenneth left the military with an honorary medical discharge in 2005.
Told he would never walk again, Kenneth’s time in a hospital bed left him with much time to study and reflect. The simple answer is to say that Kenneth found God. The more correct answer is that he found humanity. During Kenneth’s convalescence, he studied world religions, looking for the one that would grant peace to his soul. Born a Catholic, he never officially left the Church, nor did he ever really embrace it fully. What came from Kenneth’s studies was an amalgamation of Christian and Eastern religious beliefs and the faith the no matter what god you followed or what beliefs you held, it was up to you as a human being to make a difference in the world. So, Kenneth set out to do just that.
Determined to learn how to walk again, Kenneth moved home to his family’s farm in Arkansas. The property was passed down from several generations of his mother’s family and was known locally as the Snyder Farm. His grandmother’s house still stands on the property, as the only traditional house. In 2006, Kenneth’s father died of cancer, and his mother died in 2007.
In order to teach himself how to use his body again and deal with his grief over his parents’ deaths, Kenneth began building a church on his property. He started it in 2006 after his father’s death and completed it a few months after his mother’s passing. Kenneth began to attract like-minded people to the property to build an intentional community of people who shared his views of spirituality and community. By 2008, Snyder Farms began building houses. The final home was built by February, 2012. The people of Snyder Farms value community and each other, but also their ability to “live off the grid” and have little impact on the environment. All of the community’s homes have solar and wind turbine power. None of them have driveways. Everyone in the community cares for the children, tends the garden, takes care of the animals, and helps everyone else. The church that “Father” Kenneth built serves as a community center and meeting house.
Kenneth goes by the name “Father” Kenneth, though he has no official sanction from the Catholic church and wears traditional priestly attire because he discovered that people find comfort in the familiar. In addition to being the spiritual leader of the community, he also serves as a sort of small-town family doctor, though anything more serious than minor ailments is referred to a licensed doctor nearby.
Through their tight-knit community, Snyder Farms came through the outbreak far better than most communities. They lost five families totally, and only about eight other individuals. Out of an original population of 72, they now stand at 50 people.
The people of Snyder Farms are not a cult. They came to the community of their own free will and have always been free to come and go as they please. Everyone in the community participates in the decision-making process. The people of the community are free to follow whatever spiritual beliefs they choose, and “Father” Kenneth serves as their chaplain. The community contains everything from Agnostics to Buddhists to Christians. The church is very Universalist in nature. “Father” Kenneth preaches community and responsibility.
Since the outbreak, Snyder Farms has been hesitant to trust outsiders, as some quite unsavory types have moved through the countryside over the past few months. James Caden is the de-facto leader, with Michael Rhodes and “Father” Kenneth as the rest of the community council, though everyone gets a say in any important decisions.