Good morning, y’all. As we see racism pop up its ugly head everyday in tweets from The Donald; I am reminded that it was eighty years ago today in 1936, that “Gone with the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell was first published. A romantic novel about lost causes, the book was transferred to film in loving detail for the unwashed masses to long for the “good old days”. It does make one wonder if certain topics weren’t romanticized, if the public would be more inclined to let go of bad ideas, like white supremacy. Of course I’m talking about the South and our issues. Germany had a whole other thing going on.
Speaking of romanticizing the past brings us back our retelling of the history of the Full Gospel Original Church of God. Wednesday night prayer meeting had just finished and the three amigos were standing in the parking lot of the little church.
“I think he’s still too shaky”, said Elder Wiley. “We had to move the snake box to make room for the big floral arrangement at the pulpit, and Dale looked like he was going to start crying.” “And the box is empty, and he knows that.” Elder Wiley added.
“Yeah, I noticed that.” Elder Cheatum added. “I guess we’re going to have to give him another week to recover.” “Alvin why don’t you call the preacher referral people and see if we can get that tall drink of water back.” “I liked him”.
“Ok, sure, I agree, he wasn’t bad”, said Elder Wiley. “Pulling that coral snake out was a shocker.” “Of course he’s going to have to come up with something new, we’ve seen that trick.”
“Let’s don’t get somebody trying to work above their skill set,” said Elder Diggum. “This has been a lot more aggravation than any of us intended to be involved in, in our tender years.”
“Alvin why don’t you call tonight?” said Elder Cheatum, “I’m thinking the more advance notice, the better the selection.”
“Sounds good, I’ll go back in the office and make the call now.” said Elder Wiley as he headed back into the church. Elder Wiley returned a few minutes later with a look of confused concern on his face.
“Did you get Reverend Elpus?” Elder Cheatum asked.
“No, uh, it looks like the cupboard has already been picked bare.” Elder Wiley replied.
“You mean they didn’t have anybody for us? asked Elder Diggum.
“No, they had somebody, I just wasn’t sure how to answer.” Elder Wiley answered.
“Why?” asked Elder Cheatum, “were they too expensive?”
“No, in fact the price was very reasonable, it’s just that the person they are recommending is a woman.” Elder Wiley replied.
In the dim lights of the parking lot, two jaws dropped open as Elder Diggum and Elder Cheatum took in the news. After a pause of ten seconds or so, Elder Cheatum was able to respond. “How reasonable?”, he asked.
“Half”, responded Elder Wiley.
“Half!”, answered Elder Wiley.
“Book her”, said Elder Cheatum. “I don’t know what choice we’ve got.” “Maybe if Dale sees a woman up there doing his job he’ll get over his little bout of stage fright and get back on the job.” “Paying a visiting preacher while we’re taking care of the Bread brood is getting right expensive.”
“We need to get Dale back up there doing his job, that’s for sure,” chimed in Elder Diggum. “This woman preacher might be just the kick in the ‘nads Dale needs.” “What’s her name, by the way?”
“Helen Handbasket”, replied Elder Wiley, “I’ll go book her right now.”
The news of a female preacher spread through out the valley and surrounding hills in the coming days. By Sunday, the little church was more filled with worshipers than it had been before Reverend Bread’s incident. Admittedly, many were curiosity seekers. Also, there were far more women in the congregation than usual.
Reverend Helen Handbasket was truly something to behold. She was young, beautiful and seemed to glow with an inner radiance. She was dressed in long flowing robes, which gave the Elders pause when they remembered Summer Revival 2010. Ignoring Elder Wiley’s offer to frisk the female reverend for any electrical devices, Elder Cheatum counseled his partners to “let’s see what she can do.” Elder Cheatum sensed that Reverend Handbasket didn’t need trickery to get the job done. There was just something about her.
As Reverend Handbasket glided to the pulpit, her long red flowing hair seemed to give an otherworldly cast to her countenance as the lights from the stage struck her from behind. The congregation was truly moved. So moved that Hugh Morris came forward and gave his soul to Jesus. “Old man” Morris hadn’t moved from his pew since returning to church from his near fatal run-in with Reverend Bill Foldes. For the past five years, folks had speculated that Hugh had gone on to his final reward when they’d see him sitting so still during the service. Ever watchful, the congregation had watched for an ascension of Hugh’s soul, only to be denied. On the last note of the benediction, Hugh Morris always popped up and went about his business.
This Sunday, Hugh popped up early. “I hope it was the altar call and not a bladder call.”, Elder Diggum thought as he watched from his spot in the last row. To everyone’s surprise, Hugh was truly filled with the spirit. Hugh danced, he spoke in tongues, and generally behaved like a male peacock doing his mating dance. As Reverend Handbasket returned to the pulpit for the benediction, Hugh Morris returned to his pew and once again took on the appearance of one who has died in their sleep. Reverend Handbasket blessed the congregation and released them back into the wild.
As Elder Cheatum rose to take his post at the door of the church, he noticed Reverend Bread rushing forward to talk to Reverend Handbasket. “Good, he thought, maybe Dale will get off of his duff and get back to work.”