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All Creatures of Our God And King LX

BudLiteGood morning, y’all. Well if you look at today’s news you’d think there might be a fine line between crazy and insane. You’ve got a guy jumping out of an airplane without a parachute, hoping to be caught on the ground by a safety net. You’ve got a political figure insulting war heroes and their parents. What’s the difference? One of these nutjobs has a safety net, I don’t think the Donald does. There is never a dull moment with the Donald, so maybe that’s why he should go back to reality TV where he belongs. Maybe he could pair up with Ozzy Osborne.

Conjuring up the memory of Black Sabbath recalls the retelling of the history of The Full Gospel Original Church of God. The board members, “plus one”, arrived at the former Mormon church in Blairsville, known as the Crystal Palace, promptly at 9AM that Monday. While the unique architecture of the building looked like a giant golf ball made of glass and steel from the outside, one had to actually enter the church to absorb the wonders of the design.

The main building was constructed of glass triangles fitted together to form a geodesic dome. While looking like a piece of Waterford cut crystal, the dome shape was extraordinarly strong, and provided protection from high winds and other maladies. Upon entering into the auditorium, the group was struck by the almost 360 degree seating arrangement. In addition to the floor seating, which was impressive when compared to the Little Church in The Valley, the seating continued up into the dome, stadium style. Behind the pulpit there was an expansive area for the choir and other dignitaries to sit. The offices, changing rooms and storage were in a smaller brick building directly behind the main church, connected by a covered walkway. A large landscaped area separated the office building from a large pavilion at the back of the property that was used for picnics and reunions.

“Wow”, said Reverend Helena as she swiveled her head around looking about the interior.

“Just the response we were looking for”, said Elder Cheatum, “welcome to your new home.” “Well, not your ‘home’, but you get my idea”.

“I’ve only been by here a couple of times”, said Mulva with a look of wonder on her face, “I’ve never been inside, I had no idea.”

“Well, it looks more up to date than it really is because of the design”, said Elder Cheatum, “We’ve got a lot of behind the scenes work to do before we can invite the public.”

“Like bringing the wiring up to code”, said Elder Diggum.

“And updating the heating and air conditioning to something from this century”, chimed in Elder Wiley.

“And just washing everything down with a good vinegar solution”, said Mulva as she ran her finger through years of accumulated dust on the altar.

“Yeah, this is clearly the biggest window washing job ever seen”, said Elder Cheatum, “so we’re going to reach as deep into our membership as we need to, to find a solution.” “Obviously, it’s going to be an ongoing issue.”

“Probably why the Mormons gave it up”, wisecracked Elder Wiley. 

“Why did the Mormons give it up”, asked Reverend Helena.

“Well, I’ve been told they thought the demographics were right for them”, replied Elder Wiley, “People in this area are very self-sufficient, have large families, marry young and generally stay married, even if it’s to just one wife”. “Our voting habits would suggest that we are extremely racist and misogynistic, so we had that going for us as well.”

The Elder paused to give the group a grin, “When they started proselytizing the area they had an excellent following, particularly when people found out that the Mormons operated huge food banks for their followers that needed a hand.” “It didn’t take long before people found out the free food, wasn’t really free.”

“And it didn’t include meat or coffee”, chimed in Elder Diggum.

“That too”, said Elder Wiley, “but they had built this beacon for Mormonism right here in Blairsville, hoping to draw worshipers from the tri-state area”. “They did very well at first, a lot of people came just to see the church, but after a while folks couldn’t tolerate their teachings, and drifted away.”

“Telling folks we’re descended from aliens is crazier than telling folks we’re descended from apes”, inserted Elder Diggum.

“Wow”, said Reverend Helena., “the things they don’t teach you in seminary.”

“Well, we hope to turn their loss into our gain”, said Elder Cheatum, “we have a two year lease that is very favorable.” “We have already agreed upon a very favorable sales price should we decide to purchase at the end of the lease.”

Elder Cheatum looked about the auditorium and said, “The challenge before is daunting, but I know the good folks of The Full Gospel Original Church of God are up to the task.” “We are going to have to rely on the Ladies Auxillary, and their husbands like never before.” “Everyone is going to have give, and not just financially.” “We are going to need carpenters, painters, electricians..”

“And window washers”, added Mulva.

“And most certainly window washers”, answered Elder Cheatum. “So what we want to do today is spread out, look in every nook and cranny, and make a list of the obvious things that need to be repaired.” “We’ll let the specific trades people come in and look at the bones, we just want to target the things that untrained labor can remedy.”

When the group reconvened an hour later, Reverend Helena was first to speak.”Did you all know there’s a baptismal pool under the stage?” “It looks like it can be raised to floor level for Baptisms, and then hides out of sight when not being used.” “That’s very cool”.

“We prefer Hawker creek, but, that’s kind of limited to the summer time”, added Elder Wiley, “it might be good to be able to anoint people three or four times a year.”

“OK, everybody give your lists to Mulva and she’ll assign the volunteers to the tasks”, said Elder Cheatum, “I don’t know about you all, but I’m starved.” “Barry, where are you taking us today?”

Elder Diggum didn’t even rebel at being assigned the task of host. “Well, I was going to say the ‘Maison De Golden Arches’, but now that you’ve made a big deal of it, how about Outback Steak House?”

The group had plenty of time to chat on the ride to and from the steakhouse in Suwanee. When they returned to the Crystal Palace, each member had their marching orders. Excited, and filled with anticipation, the group left the parking lot of the new location of The Full Gospel Original Church of God.

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All Creatures of Our God And King LX

BudLiteGood morning, y’all. I don’t know when the term “news” was redefined to mean “just bad news” but there seems to be plenty to go around. Today, we hear about the devastating floods in Ellicott City, Maryland where the whole town was destroyed and two were left dead. Next, we hear about sixteen people dying in a hot air balloon accident. It was a clear beautiful day, and yet, sixteen people lost their lives. I guess no one knows the day or the hour.

Speaking of knowing the day and the hour brings us back around to our retelling of the history of The Full Gospel Original Church of God. Sunday’s service was once again filled to the rafters with the curious and the convinced. The below freezing temperature did not dampen the followers burning with the flame the Holy Spirit. As Elder Cheatum looked across the congregation seated before him from his new vantage spot, standing next to the door, he noticed the Right Reverend Dale E. Bread sitting front and center with his family. Elder Cheatum was not sure how he had missed them entering the church, but there they were, in front of God and everybody. “I hope there’s not going to be any trouble”, he thought as Ted E. Bayer and his Love Fellowship broke the  silence with the gathering hymn.

As Reverend Handbasket appeared on the stage there was a collective gasp from the crowd. Reverend Helena was wearing robes that were patch-worked in the colors of the African flag. Bright red, bright green and solid black were mixed together harmoniously to give the appearance of a very tailored flag. The sermon was on race relations, which was a timely topic considering the numbers of new brown and black faces in the congregation. The older members of the congregation were not only having to contend with “flatlanders”, they were also having to contend with people of color, something they rarely had to do. Segregation of the races was just how things were done here in “Whitopia”.

Elder Cheatum remembered the phrase he had heard his whole life that was specifically reserved for blacks, “Don’t let the sun set on you in Union county”. Black people, who did the menial jobs that the white people did not want to do, had to live in the surrounding counties. In this part of Georgia, blacks were not welcome to live in the same county as the people that they served. Even today, the 2014 census revealed that less than 1% of the population in Union county was black, just slightly higher than the Native American population. Statewide the black population comprised almost one third of the general population in Georgia.

“The roots of bigotry run deep”, thought Elder Cheatum, “even when they go contrary to convenience.”

The Elder watched the crowd’s faces for reactions as Reverend Handbasket referenced the Bible to support her sermon. She quoted Leviticus 19:33-34, “When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”

“Good catch all quote”, thought Elder Cheatum, “Red or yellow, black or white, they are all precious in His sight.”

As he scanned the faces of the congregation, the message seemed to be well received, and Reverend Helena was doing a bang up job of delivering it. So good in fact, that she ran long on the sermon. The telecast had to cut away before the Testament of Faith and the Altar call. As it turned out, the overrun was providential. It allowed the Reverend Handbasket to ask the congregation to stay behind for some “important church business”. As Elder Cheatum watched; a few folks scampered out of the doors before Reverend Handbasket announced what the “important church business” was.

“Just as well”, he thought, “They’re more interested in their fantasy football teams than the mission of the church, it’s just as well we don’t count their vote.”

As Reverend Handbasket explained the two options to the assembled crowd, the Elders and “Elders in training” moved up and down the aisles handing out 3×5 cards with the choices clearly printed on them:

Continue the growth of our mission, even if it means moving to a new sanctuary.

Discontinue the telecasts and abandon efforts to spread the word.

After dispensing the ballots, the Elders walked back to the front of the church and used the prayer baskets to collect the ballots. As the Elders returned the baskets to the altar, Reverend Handbasket led the congregation in the singing of “Love Lifted Me”. At the end of the hymn she pronounced the benediction and the congregation exited the church.

The Elders rushed to the altar and collected the baskets. Sitting around the table in the church office, the Elders stacked the ballots into two piles. The count was not even close; as the Elders had imagined it would not be. If seniority had been used to qualify voters, there is little doubt that the vote would have gone the other way. By allowing the newcomers to vote, the Elders had tilted the scales in the direction of the outcome they desired. 

“Well boys…, and girls”, said Elder Diggum as he looked between Mulva and Reverend Helena, “it looks like the people have spoken.”

“I would say overwhelmingly so”, responded Elder Wiley, “it looks like the people want to spread our message as far as we can.” “Mulva, how soon can you get the Ladies Auxillary mobilized?”

Mulva appeared to be in deep thought, but responded quickly,”It depends on the task”.

“Well, I’m sure that there’s years of dust and dinge that need to be removed at the new church”, said Elder Wiley, “plus we’re going to have to lean on the ‘husbands auxillary’ to repair and to paint.”

“If any of the husbands have a specific trade like HVAC, electrician, or plumber, we want to put them at the top of our list”, said Elder Cheatum, “Nothing will spoil an ecclesiastical experience like a backed up toilet.”

“By the same token, bringing folks into a new worship hall without heat will not engender folks to dig deep into their pockets”, responded Elder Wiley, “We need to get the right trades folks in to cross the t’s and dot the i’s before we invite the world to come visit.” 

“Well, I think we’re all agreed, the sooner started the sooner finished”, said Elder Cheatum, “so let’s all meet at the Crystal Palace tomorrow at 9AM, ok?”

Everyone at the table nodded their assent.

“Ok, since everyone is so agreeable, I’d like to float one more trial balloon”, said Elder Cheatum, “I’d like for all of us to consider letting Reverend Dale take our proposed new worship times on Sunday.”

“Are you crazy?”, was the immediate response from Elder Wiley.

“Perhaps”, responded Elder Cheatum, “But I watched how folks that knew him responded to him today, and they all seemed to be happy to see him.”

“I think we should consider him for the 7AM service and the 3PM service”, Elder Cheatum continued, “that way Reverend Helena is fresh for prime time, and we can offer our congregation the opportunity to worship with a familiar face, and without feeling crowded.”

“I’m ok with Reverend Dale”, Reverend Helena spoke for the first time, “If I had fallen, I would want to be given a second chance.”

And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins”, recited Elder Diggum as he smiled at the group, “Mark 11:25”.

Elder Cheatum raised one eyebrow in the direction of Elder Diggum, and then turned his attention back to the group.

“I motion that we approach Reverend Dale with the idea of the two new time-slots, and then see how it goes”, Elder Cheatum said as he looked each member in the eye.

The motion carried. There being no further business the group left the church.

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All Creatures of Our God And King LIX

BudLiteGood morning, y’all. Well, if you have any doubt about who Hillary Clinton is, it should be dispelled by now. Character witness after character witness came forward to sing the praises of someone who has been working for the common man, and children in particular, for forty years. In spite of Hillary’s brilliant acceptance speech, the most important words of the night were spoken by a Muslim father who had lost his son fighting for the United States Army. “You have sacrificed nothing, you have sacrificed no one”, the father accused the Donald. Offering to loan the Donald his copy of the U.S. Constitution for what would be a first reading by the Donald, was just icing on the cake.

Speaking of unique situations brings us to today’s retelling of the history of The Full Gospel Original Church of God. The Elders, ‘plus one’, met in the office of the little church after Wednesday Night Prayer meeting. As Mulva started printing the profit and loss statements to the little printer she had donated to the church, she commented on the crowd size.

“We’re just about as full tonight as we were on Sunday”, Mulva said, “I think we should start passing the plate.” “I’m betting there’s folks coming on Wednesday that are avoiding Sunday.”

“Well, I’m never going to get a better lead in than that”, thought Elder Cheatum.

“Well Mulva”, Elder Cheatum said to the secretary/treasurer, “We’ve all been agonizing over this problem day and night.” “I know you have too.” “I’ve prayed on it, I’ve read the scriptures, I’ve talked to people about it almost nonstop, and I think I’ve come to a couple of conclusions.”

Mulva Lite sensed the gravity of the Elder’s voice and put her paperwork down on the table and focused on Elder Cheatum.

“What I’m going to propose may sound like I’ve completely lost my mind, and I’m willing to take a crazy test if you all insist.”

Without waiting for a vote for a sanity test, the Elder plunged ahead, “I’d like to offer the congregation the opportunity to vote on our future.” “I know sometimes our members feel like we just make decisions without considering their feelings, but I can assure you that that has never been the case.”

Elder Cheatum took a sip of Mountain Dew and continued, “We’re unique in that the same family has provided leadership for the church for three generations.” “From our founder Hiram Hawker, through his grandson Daniel, most of our decisions for the church were made by their visions.” “We don’t have their guidance anymore.”

Elder Cheatum looked around the table and all eyes were on him, “What we do have is a Reverend that is reaching into the souls of people and causing them to take action.” “Reverend Helena is reaching people as far as the telecasts go, and those people are motivated to attend our church and contribute to spreading our message.” “I think most people would call it a phenomenon, maybe a miracle”.

Elder Cheatum took another sip and continued, “For those of us that believe that it is all part of God’s plan, we can say that the hiring of Reverend Dale and his subsequent fall were part of God’s plan to bring us to Reverend Helena.” “Now, because we have outgrown our current situation, we have to ask, ‘what is the next part of the plan?'”

Elder Cheatum continued, “I’m going to draw on one of my favorite childhood songs, ‘This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine’ as an answer.”

The Elder paused to take a breath and continued, “For those of you would went to vacation Bible school with Granny Waller, I know you’ve been told many times to not ‘hide your light under a bushel basket.'”

As the collected group shook their heads in agreement, Elder Cheatum felt moved to quote the scriptures, “I believe it was Matthew 5:14-16 that said, ‘You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.‘”

The Elder let his words sink in before he continued, “I feel deeply, deeply, that it is our mission to bring Reverend Helena’s special gift to as many people as we can.” “I believe we should allow our congregation the opportunity to vote to move our services to the Crystal Palace in Blairsville.” 

As the gravity of his words reached each member of the board, Mulva asked,”What if the people don’t want to go?”

“Then we’ll stay”, answered Elder Cheatum, “We’ll turn off the telecasts, and eventually all of that TV money will dry up.” ” Who knows, eventually the church may return to the same size as it was when Reverend Daniel was preaching, and we can take those horrible additions off.”

Elder Cheatum continued, “Now, we’re not going to be able to fund any of those projects we’ve been talking about, the trip to the Holy Land, the daycare center, the mission trip to Central America.” “We’re going to have to squeeze every quarter until the eagle screams, but hey, we know how to do that, we’ve been there before.”

Elder Cheatum measured the look of alarm in Mulva’s face before continuing, “I also worry about the revivals, but maybe that is part of God’s plan, too”.

Elder Diggum jumped in ahead of Mulva to ask,”What about the revivals?”

“Well, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we’re not getting any younger”, Elder Cheatum said as he looked around the table. “If we can’t attract young people into membership, and consequentially volunteership, then the church will have to contract for all of those services provided by volunteers.”

Elder Cheatum leaned back in his chair as he began to wrap up, “I’m not proposing a ‘reformation’, I don’t see splitting the church as the answer”. “I just believe that long term, we’ll lose Reverend Helena if we vote to stay.” “She’ll be getting offers that we won’t be able to match with our old revenue model.” “Maybe that’s God’s plan, but maybe God brought Reverend Helena to us to spread the vision of Hiram Hawker to the world.” 

The room was quiet for a few seconds before Mulva spoke. “I truly do believe what you’re saying, Reverend Helena is meant for a larger audience than the little church in the valley.” “I want to be a part of that larger voice and that movement.” “I just don’t want to lose our traditions and the friends that we have here.” “Does that make sense?” “It’s like you really want to live in Atlanta and enjoy all of its benefits, but your family wants to live in Nunsuch.” “You stay in Nunsuch with your family, it’s what you do.”

“Mulva, you’ve hit the nail on the head and given me an idea at the same time”, Elder Cheatum said. “What if the ‘Yes’ vote is to maintain the telecasts, which will also be a vote on moving Reverend Helena to the Crystal Place?” “The ‘No’ vote will discontinue the telecasts and trying to maintain the status quo.”

Having sat silent for too long, Elder Wiley took the opportunity to break his silence, “What if the ‘Yes’ vote also included keeping the little church in the valley open as long as someone attends Sunday services?”

All eyes snapped on the Elder, some with hope, some with disbelief at the proposal. Elder Wiley continued, “We’d have to find a preacher at a discount, I might know where to locate one.” “The good folks of our community won’t have to follow Reverend Helena to the Crystal Palace if they don’t want to.” “Come Sunday morning, it will be business as usual at the Little Church in the Valley, just like it has been since 1902.”

The look on Mulva’s face as she recognized what was being said was one of relief spreading to joy. “Could we do that?” she asked. “Can we afford it?”

“We’ll figure a way”, said Elder Wiley, “Can you support the move if we don’t leave any stragglers behind?”

The secretary/treasurer smiled at each member of the board and said, “Yes, I believe I can.” 

Elder Wiley raised his voice to an authoritarian tone, “The motion is made to poll the congregation this Sunday for a proposed move to the Crystal Palace.”

The “Ayes” carried the motion.

Elder Wiley continued, “It is further proposed to keep the existing facilities opened for as long as they are deemed necessary, regardless of the outcome of the congregation’s vote”.

Once again, the “Ayes” carried the day.

There being no further business, the board adjourned their meeting and returned to their daily lives.

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All Creatures of Our God And King LVIII

BudLiteGood morning, y’all. Well, if you’ve been watching, and weren’t moved to tears by President Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention last night, well, I’m guessing you’re in a coma or a staunch supporter of the National Rifle Association. The emotion that came through the screen when President Obama talked about the little lost children of Sandy Hook was overwhelming. You could just see the picture of the owl gifted to the President by the parents of a child who was killed, “so that he would never forget”. Powerful, powerful stuff. All I can say is, “Four More Years, Four More Years, Four More Years!”

Speaking of strong emotions bring us back to the retelling of the history of The Full Gospel Original Church of God. Wednesday morning’s ritual breakfast at IHOP in Blairsville had a festive atmosphere. Christmas was two days away and the restaurant had expanded its menu to included Christmas related items. Elder Diggum opted for pancakes shaped like Santa Claus with a side of “reindeer” bacon.

Elder Wiley stirred his “elf spiced” coffee as he began to speak, “Honest to Pete, I bet I saw more elbows being thrown in ten minutes before the sermon this week than in a whole NBA game.” ” You know for those of us that were Pentecostal, before Pentecostal was cool, this fighting for a spot to worship is wearing a little thin.”

Elder Diggum paused mid-mouthful to interject, “You know some of us are fourth and fifth generation church members.” “We’re just not used to sharing the pews where our family has sat for years, with outsiders.” “Heck, I can point to the initials of my granddaddy, and daddy, where they carved them in the pew in front of our spot.”

“I know, I know”, said Elder Cheatum, “the worst part of it might be than lifelong enemies are being crushed together by the new members.” “I guess as a ‘love one another’ message that’s a good thing, but people don’t always practice the Golden Rule, even in church.”

“I’m afraid”, said Elder Wiley, “that with ‘open carry’ in Georgia, we might have a greater liability situation than the snakes pose.” “I cringe at a breaking news story that would involve shooting and snakes.” ” The Full Gospel Original Church of God would never live down that notoriety.”

“You know, the big leap of faith about us leasing the Crystal Palace is an anxiety I have about our new demographics,” said Elder Cheatum. “Most of these new comers are coming to church in clothes that look like they were pulled out of a Goodwill box.” “They wear these super tight skinny leg jeans, which are totally inappropriate for worship, in my opinion, and I remember our Happy Dalers.”

Elder Cheatum took a bite of his toast and continued, “I am kind of tickled at how many of them wear Chuck Taylor’s or Converse All Stars.” “Inappropriate, but it’s kind of cool to see these young folks appreciating the old standards.”

Elder Cheatum took a big sip of coffee before continuing, “The thing that has hit me the weirdest with these new folks is that they all went to a Super Cuts and picked out the same style from the pictures on the wall.” “Men and women, they’ve all got the same hair cut.” “It’s some sort of unisex thing I don’t understand.”

“Metrosexual”, interrupted Elder Diggum, “they call it Metrosexual.”

“Well, I figured if anyone knew the definition it would be you”, said Elder Wiley as he grinned at Elder Diggum, who had returned to his second order of ‘reindeer’ bacon.

“I think whether you call them unisex, or metosexual, or what-the-sex”, Elder Cheatum continued, “we can all agree that they are a giving lot of people.” “Our average donation per attendee is increased by at least fifty percent.” “That’s the thing I’m hanging our move on, that and the TV money.”

“In God we trust, all others must pay cash”, joked Elder Wiley, “but I do share that concern.” “If the metosexuals find a new something that’s ‘cool’ will they cast us aside?”

“That’s our leap of faith”, replied Elder Cheatum, “thank God we’ve got Reverend Helena on our side.”

Elder Diggum paused his perusal of the IHOP dessert menu to inquire, “Have you heard back from the Crystal Palace leasing agent?”

“Yeah, we’ve basically come to terms”, Elder Cheatum said, “I’ll put it up for a formal vote tonight.”

“Well?” asked Elder Wiley.

“Well”, answered Elder Cheatum, “it’s a two year lease with option to purchase.” “Lease payments will be deducted from purchase price if we decide to buy.” “The purchase price is locked in to today’s value, and we have right of first refusal.” “That way we won’t have to have a fight in two years if the Baptists decide they want the spot after we’ve built it up.”

“Good, good”, Elder Wiley replied, “what about improvements?”

“Improvements are like they are in any lease”, Elder Cheatum answered, “whatever we improve becomes part of the property.” “Of course, if we purchase, it’s not an issue.”

“Well ninety percent of our improvements will be donated, so it’s probably not a big deal either way”, responded Elder Wiley, “I will want to go over the agreement as soon as possible.”

“That’s why I brought you a copy”, Elder Cheatum said as he slid the lease agreement from his Royce Leather legal size notepad holder. “I figured you could give it the ‘once over’ and have it ready to for the vote tonight.”

“Will do”, replied Elder Wiley, “I’ll check to see if the Mormon lawyers interjected any Utah law into the agreement.”

Elder Diggum nearly dropped his fork as he asked, “They can’t do that can they?”

“No, Barry, I was just kidding”, Elder Wiley replied, “but there’s plenty in Georgia law to watch out for.” Is there anythng else?”

“Yeah”, said Elder Cheatum,”I’ve been thinking about Mulva’s reactions to everything, and I’m thinking she is a lot closer to the pulse of the church than we are.” “She rules the Ladies Auxillary, and without them we’d be in a world of hurt.”

Elder Cheatum breathed a low sigh, “The Ladies Auxillary and the ‘husbands auxillary’ have been keeping our church in the black for a long time.” “I want Mulva one hundred percent committed to what we’re going to do.”

The two other Elders were totaling focused on Elder Cheatum.

“To that end, I’m going to propose to Mulva that we have the congregation vote on our two big issues, multiple services on Sunday, and the move to the Crystal Palace.” “I think if we ’empower’ the congregation, Mulva will feel like nobody had their church yanked away from them.”

“That’s a really good idea”, said Elder Wiley, “if Mulva is committed, that may be the biggest battle of the war.”

“Agreed”, replied Elder Diggum. “Mulva carries more weight with the congregation than the three of us together.”

“Well, she is ‘known by her works'”, replied Elder Cheatum. “I planted the seed for what our projected growth could bring with the free trip to the Holy Land.” “I’m sure we’ll have more opportunities to help Mulva see the importance of spreading our message to as many followers as possible.”

“Barry, if we stay any longer they’re going to start serving lunch”, Elder Cheatum said as he got up, “Are you about done, some of us have work to do.”

“Here Barry, here’s the check”, said Elder Wiley as he rose, “and leave a nice tip.”

The Elders left the parking lot of the purveyor of international cuisine for their daily chores.

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All Creatures of Our God And King LVII

BudLiteGood morning, y’all. I don’t know that the comparisons could be made any stronger. Sane, rational people are making speeches at the Democratic National Convention, people who actually know something about government and the law. Meanwhile, the Donald is asking the Russians to see if they can recover Hillary’s personal emails to see if they contain any dirt. Simultaneously, Melania’s website and bio have been stricken from the internet. Between plagiarizing Michelle Obama’s speech, and overstating her qualifications, Melania has proven herself to be a perfect match for the Donald. Trump Tower, where the truth goes to die.

Speaking of looking for a spot to die brings us back to our retelling of the history of The Full Gospel Original Church of God. Sunday was a brisk cold day that brought out the faithful in their heavy winter clothes. Since there was not a cloak room in the little church, the congregation were forced to wear their outer clothes during the ceremony, or, place them under their seats. There was no room for personal items on the pews. The pews were jam packed with worshipers, and standing room now was at a premium.

Elder Cheatum decided to stand in the back of the church; his previous experience sitting next to Ted E. Bayer and his Love Fellowship had nearly deafened him. The Elder’s usual seat had been usurped by an Asian couple holding a small baby. The Elder reasoned that it was better for him to stand, than a paying customer. As the Elder looked across the congregation he could see that Reverend Helena’s appeal was cutting across all ethnic lines.The Asian couple were not the only minority in evidence.

Ted E. Bayer and the Love Fellowship were delivering the traditional Christmas carols with a funky overtone. The added spin to the timeless songs seemed to encourage the audience to be in a more cheerful mood. Certainly the appearance of the sanctuary raised everyone’s spirits. The Ladies Auxillary had decorated the church beautifully, using many natural and homemade decorations. A large twelve-foot Christmas tree stood in the place usually occupied by the altar. Elder Cheatum imagined it looked just as beautiful to the home viewers as it did in person.

As the Elder watched the service, he had the sense that the Reverend was particularly “on” this Sunday. It was the “Christmas service”, with Christmas day actually falling on Friday that week. As the Elder listened to the tone of the Reverend’s voice, he realized that Christmas seemed to have a lot of meaning for the Reverend.

The title of Reverend Handbasket’s sermon was, “If He Had Not Come“, and drew from the Bible verse, John 15:22, “If I had not come”. In the scripture, Jesus had asked his followers to imagine the world without his birth, just as Reverend Helena was asking her congregation to do now. Reverend Helena related the healings, the teachings, the examples for living a good life that the world would never have known had it not been for the birth of Christ. By the time she had gotten to the end of the sermon, she was emotionally spent from trying to imagine a world without Jesus.

At the Testament of Faith, it was revealed that not just Reverend Handbasket had special feelings for Christmas. Hugh Morris, who was generally thought to be in a coma during services, was so spirit filled this week that he was moved to leave his pew in the amen section and began to dance in the area reserved for the altar call. Whatever struck Brother Morris’s inner Chi, be it the slap bass of the Love Fellowship, or remembrances of Christmas past, something got him up on his toes.

The senior citizen’s dance took on elements of the Charleston and the Lindy Hop with overtures of the Watusi. Mr. Morris spun like a dervish all the way through all five choruses of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”. He didn’t stop dancing until the last “hallelujah!”, whereupon he dropped in a heap to sit cross legged in front of the Christmas tree. The feeling in the air was absolutely electric. As the people moved forward to answer the altar call, there was an air of uncertainty as to whether or not they too were supposed to display dance moves almost a century old.

As the broadcast crew used their hand held cameras to get a closeup of Hugh, his face was revealed to all of the congregation on the big screens mounted about the church. He seemed to be ok, he was catching his breath, but grinning like he just walked into the girl’s shower by accident. Oddly, there was also somewhat of a beatific look on the face of the Reverend Helen Handbasket.

“What is it about Christmas that reduces people to their child like selves”, wondered Elder Cheatum as he headed back to the office after services. Mulva Lite was separating the cash from the checks from each of the collection plates, and arranging them into neat little piles. She ran totals on each collection plate and then entered them into her spreadsheet. Next she bundled her piles with a bank deposit slip rubber banded to the stack.

“How’s it look”, the Elder asked as he sat down at the table.

“Real good”, the secretary/treasurer replied, “I’m always surprised that people will up their giving at Christmas time, when they have so many personal demands on their money.” “It seems like each Christmas people are starting to think more about others.” “It does my heart good.”

“Mine too”, the Elder said, “How are the collections looking from the Elders in training?”

“They’re consistent”, said Mulva as she placed the stacks in the night deposit bag. “If anybody is skimming anything, it’s nothing too big.” “It would probably be hard to pocket anything with all of these camera people running around during the service.” “You’d never know when you might be caught on live TV.”

“Well, I guess that’s another blessing the TV broadcasts have provided us.” the Elder said as he opened the door to the office so the pair could leave for the day. “I meant to ask, do you have a Reverend Dale update?”

“Just that Bud and I have kept their kids a couple of times for them so they could go out on dates.”, Mulva related, “It looks like Dale has moved in, which has got Bud in a snit, but I told him to calm down and see if they could work it out.”

“Well, you tell Bud we appreciate his charity and that I look forward to seeing his work on the webpage”, Elder Cheatum replied, “remind Bud that he’s building his stores in Heaven.”

“Oh, I do, I do” said Mulva as she got into her car, “but you know how Bud is.”

“Yes, I do”, said Elder Cheatum as he waved goodbye.

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All Creatures of Our God And King LVI

BudLiteGood morning, y’all. How do we sort out the news? Positive speeches from the DNC, Hillary and Bernie making nice and we find out the Russkies feel like they have a stake in our election. Seems like the DNC mail server hack originated in Russia, and one can only wonder if the Donald asked his old friend “Mad Dog” Putin to do him a solid and see if he could dig up any dirt on Hillary. Meantime, the Donald won’t reveal his tax returns which would certainly reveal the source of the money he’s used to build his empire. Would there be sweet irony in Trump’s run for the presidency ending in a charge of treason?

Speaking of digging up dirt brigs us back to the retelling of The Full Gospel Original Church of God. The Elders were still abuzz with their visit to the Crystal Palace when they met after Wednesday Night Prayer meeting.

Elder Cheatum started the group discussion, “Now, lest I get prideful, and we all knows what happens when we get prideful, I would like to say that a move to a properly sized house of worship is something that this congregation deserves.” “The parishioners at The Full Gospel Original Church of God have endured a lot of hardships in 2015, and met them all head on.”

Elder Cheatum looked about the table, “Let’s all be honest folks, when you’re strapping single wide trailers onto the side of your church to provide ample seating, well, it’s time to step up and make a bold move.” “Taking over the “Crystal Palace” will be a bold move on several fronts, but I think the congregation should take the step.” “Our congregation is made up of good folks who have been loyal and true to their beliefs.” “Now that our ‘brand’ has become popular, I think our followers should enjoy the fruits of their labors.”

Mulva Lite voiced her concern as soon as she was able to speak. “I think you all may be putting the cart before the horse a little bit”, she said as she handed out the weekly profit and loss statements. “Not everybody is going to be jumping up and down to drive to Blairsville three times a week to go to church.”

“You’re right Mulva, we’ve thought about that, a lot”, said Elder Cheatum, “but let me tell you the positives.” “First, the building and grounds are in perfect condition.” “Architecturally it is one of the most striking buildings in the area.” “It is glass and steel and looks like a piece of cut crystal coming up out of the ground.” “It’s at the end of the street, with woods behind the pavilion, so we’d have our privacy.” “There is a ton of parking, and I think we could continue our growth there for years to come.”

“Well, that’s all well and good for you fellows that live in Blairsville”, Mulva replied, “I’m just not sure how that’s going to play with the people here in Nunsuch.”

“We understand”, Elder Wiley jumped in, “but we’re putting possibly losing forty regular church goers at risk to capture four hundred in house and thousands more at home.” “Economically, it clearly is a no-brainer.” Elder Wiley paused and continued,”And, I think if you’ll think about the opportunity of spreading our message, you’ll see the sense of what I’m saying.”

“Mulva, the telecasts from inside the Crystal Palace would rival any of the mega-churches in Dallas or Atlanta”, said Elder Diggum. “I think they could place the cameras and microphones to where you wouldn’t even see the cameraman anymore.” “It would be a much better experience for the worshiper.”

“I feel like you all have made up your minds, and I haven’t seen the place”, Mulva replied, “Well, I’ve seen it from the outside, but not gone over everything like you all have.” “I feel like I’m going to need to do the tour before I can get on board.” “You all haven’t already signed the lease have you?”

“No, no, I’ve contacted the listing agent”, said Elder Cheatum, “but that’s as far as it’s gone so far.” “Look, we want everybody to be on board and as excited about the opportunity as we are.” “It’s important to us that you share our enthusiasm.”

Mulva lowered her eyes as she said,”Thank you”, to the collected Elders. She looked back up and determined that the Elders were finished with the details of their field trip. She looked from face to face and began delivering the weekly totals. “Our collection for this past week was five thousand five hundred and eighty five dollars.” “Our donations from TV land was twelve thousand and thirteen dollars.” “We have gone through our first four thousand bookmarks and I’ve ordered twelve thousand more.”

Mulva paused at this point to look around the room, “I’m sorry, I didn’t ask, we just got down to the last hundred bookmarks and I ordered the amount that would give us the biggest price break and had free shipping.” “So, from that bottom line total on your P&L, subtract about three hundred dollars for the new bookmarks.” “We’re going to start adding self addressed envelopes with the bookmarks and our ‘ask’ letters.” “We’ll try that a while and see if it ups the donations.” “If not, we’ll spare the expenses and the aggravation and just send the bookmark and the ask letter.”

“Outstanding Mulva”, said Elder Cheatum, “just outstanding.” “And have you gained any insight into the total viewership of the broadcasts?”

“Well, we had gone through the first four thousand in about ten days after the service”, Mulva replied, “Once we go through this next twelve thousand it should give us a much better feel.” “Of course our premise presumes that everybody wants a bookmark blessed by the Reverend Helena, but that’s a pretty good premise.” Mulva smiled.

“That is a good premise”, Elder Diggum agreed.

“Ok, I’ve just got one more little bit of business to discuss”, Elder Cheatum began. “I mentioned earlier the ‘fruits of our labors’.” “I am of the opinion that our church is doing well enough that we are in a position to fund the Reverend Helen Handbasket, and possibly a few Elders, on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.”

Mulva Lite’s eyes popped wide open as she listened with her complete attention.

“Turns out, one of the new Elders in training, Waldo Inacrowd, owns a travel agency in Blairsville”, Elder Cheatum continued, “And he tells me that he is in a position to provide the ‘very best accommodations’ at a ‘reasonable rate’ to any of the faithful who might want to take the trek to the Wailing Wall.” “I have taken the liberty of purchasing tickets for the Reverend Helena Handbasket and the group seated here.” ” The first junket is tentatively scheduled for the first week of August 2016, which is kind of the slow season in the Holy Land.”

Elder Cheatum basked in the glow of the warm smiles from the board members.

“If you would like to bring a plus one, I’m told that the second ticket would be at a reduced rate,” Elder Cheatum said, “Also, Brother Waldo says that August is a great time to visit the Middle East because even the Isis stay inside in August.” “You can pass that on to your significant others if you like.”

Back slaps, ‘hear hear’ and thank yous filled the room. When the moment passed, Elder Cheatum looked at the group. “I think that’s enough excitement for one night.” “I move we adjourn this meeting, any objections?”

There were none; and the board of the little church returned to their homes filled with the spirit and the good news of the evening.

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All Creatures of Our God And King LV

BudLiteGood morning, y’all. Wow, how much fun is it watching articulate educated speakers talk about topics that relate to all of us? Of course I’m talking about the Democratic National Convention. Let me say right here, if Michelle Obama is the same off the stage as she is on it, President Obama showed his brilliance early on in life. She is a rock star. When she related that she woke up each day in a house built by slaves, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. And there shouldn’t have been. I don’t know if her speech can be topped by the other people scheduled to speak, but I’m going to be watching in case some one does.

Speaking of topping a speech bring us back to the retelling of the history of The Full Gospel Original Church of God. Sunday’s services were marked by the first ever “Opinion Poll” conducted by the church. Elder Cheatum had a moment of regret that he had decided to pick up the comment cards with the collection. The use of the prayer basket to gather the comment cards helped, but the Elder was concerned that the task of filling out the comment card would reduce the tithe. He shouldn’t have worried. Collections were still in line with previous week’s standards based on the preliminary report by Mulva Lite after the services.

A brief scanning of the comment cards revealed that the audience had a lot of questions on their mind. “Was Reverend Handbasket currently seeing anyone?” “What kind of music did Reverend Handbasket like?” and so on. There appeared to be far more comments than parishioners, so Elder Cheatum suggested to Mulva that the Ladies Auxillary sort the cards by topic.

“Divide them based off of actual church business, and everything else”, Elder Cheatum told Mulva. “If Reverend Helena wants to tell the world what kind of music she likes, that might be a good thing for Bud to put on the website.” “I want to be able to count how many people want to stay, how many want to look elsewhere, and how many want to go back to how it was.”

“Ok”, responded the secretary/treasurer as she separated the cash and the checks and created her deposit slip.

Elder Cheatum sighed as he continued, “If I was a smarter man, we would have put out the comment cards with just those three choices and had everybody just check one.” “If we do this again, let’s remember to be focused about our topic.”

Elder Cheatum read a card out loud before sailing it into the waste basket in the corner. “Boxers or briefs?” “What does that even mean?”

“Ok, I’m gone, see you Wednesday night”, said the Elder as he left the office and headed back into the sanctuary where Reverend Handbasket was still blessing pilgrims.

“We’ve got a keeper there”, he thought as he left the parking lot headed to his next mission.

Wednesday morning breakfast placed the three friends in the corner booth of the IHOP in Blairsville with a perfect view from the window of the pouring rain. It was raining buckets, non-stop.

“Well I tell you one thing”, began Elder Diggum, “they’ve cast old Al Gore as a fool, but something funny is going on with our weather.” “Ella made me watch this movie, “An Inconvenient Truth“, and honest to God, I think they’re right.”

“Was this before or after Ella had you crochet the new doilies for the sofa?” asked Elder Wiley.

As Elder Diggum’s mouth was completely full of biscuits and ham, he did not respond. He looked to Elder Cheatum for help, but none was forthcoming.

Elder Cheatum was scanning the classifieds of the North Georgia Gazette. “It’s still there he said as he passed the paper to Elder Wiley. ” “I’m disappointed in the lack of focus shown by our congregation in our comment cards, but I guess I didn’t explain the situation well enough.”

“Heck, who could”, said Elder Wiley, “Our little church in the valley has blown up like a bag of potato chips in a microwave.” “The TV broadcasts are covering the mountains with our message like kudzu.” “Shoot, we’re even marching on Atlanta.” 

“Easy with that ‘marching on Atlanta’ talk, Yankee”, replied Elder Cheatum said, “But you’re right, we’re even creating our own reality TV stars.” “Mulva tells me that she’s had folks stop her in the Walmart because they’ve seen her on the telecast.”

“Me too”, Elder Diggum as he placed the fork loaded with pancakes into his mouth. “We’re just on camera during the passing of the plate, but people have recognized me.”

“Well, you do have a rather distinctive shape”, Elder Wiley replied. 

“Well, you’re Momma dresses you funny”, responded Elder Diggum as he cut into his steak with his knife. “Geez, this steak is so rare I think they could throw a band aid on it and turn it back to pasture and it’d be all right.”

Elder Diggum motioned for the waitress to come over so that he could give the sub-minimum wage worker an epicure’s definition of medium-well.

“What are you all looking at?” he asked before the waitress arrived.

“The Crystal Palace”, replied Elder Cheatum, “it looks like the Mormon’s are willing to rent it now, instead of us having to buy it.” “It might be a way we can test the waters of a bigger presence without breaking the bank to do it.”

Elder Diggum is so dumbstruck by the proposal that he is ignoring the waitress standing patiently beside him.

Elder Wiley responds for him, “He’d like you to knock the horns off of this steer and give it a few more minutes on the grill, if you please”, he said as he handed Elder Diggum’s plate to the young girl.

“The Crystal Palace”, sputtered Elder Diggum, “I heard it was haunted.”

“Haunted by the memories of unmet expectations, maybe”, Elder Cheatum said, “other than that, I can’t see the downside.” “I’ve got the lockbox code for the church and I was thinking we could all do a little field trip after breakfast.” “What say you?”

“I say more butts in the seats will translate into more tithes”, said Elder Wiley, “but more importantly, a move to the ‘Crystal Palace’ will up the exposure of The Full Gospel Original Church of God to a very prominent place in our region.”

Elder Wiley chuckled and added, “Let’s be honest, there would be some ‘soul satisfaction’ in having our little group of evangelicals make it in the spot where the Mormon’s had to cut bait.”

“And”, began Elder Cheatum, “It will also make the directions for the folks coming from Atlanta a lot easier to follow.” “I resolve we go have a look, are we resolved?”

“We are”, said Elder Diggum.

The three friends left the parking lot of their “International” dining experience for an equally foreign experience.

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All Creatures of Our God And King LIV

BudLiteGood morning, y’all. I am reminded of Will Rogers’ famous quote about his political affiliation, “I am not a member of any organized party — I am a Democrat“. Funny as heck, but oh so true. I see by the news that the Bernie supporters are marching on the DNC in hopes of getting everyone to change their minds and nominate Bernie. I love the passion, but is it worth the risk of the return of the Third Reich to get your way? Maybe Trump does understand the millennials better. They’re used to getting their way, and right now. Just like rich kids. We’ll wait and see if the millennials have the maturity to vote for their second choice, as opposed to staying home. The stakes are high.

Speaking of high stakes brings us back to the retelling of the history of the Full Gospel Original Church of God. Elder Cheatum took his place at the table of the board meeting and looked at the other members of the board.

“Well?”, he asked.

“Well, you did about as good a job as you could explaining the dilemma”, said Elder Wiley, “I just think the older members are going to want to stop the broadcasts and ultimately stop the growth.”

“Yeah, you might be surprised that some of the old timers would be willing to give up Reverend Helena to get things back to where they were,” said Elder Diggum.

“Mulva?” Elder Cheatum asked.

“I see both sides”, the secretary/treasurer responded. “I can see that the money allows us to reach out and spread our mission as far as it will go; and I can sympathize with the people that just want their Little Church In The Valley back.” “You know the older you get, the less change you like, and our congregation was pretty old.”

“And that’s my point, when we die off, that’s it”, said Elder Cheatum as he looked around the room, “Without these new members, eventually the church will die, and I will feel like I’ve failed if that happens while I’m alive.”

Elder Cheatum’s voice took on a different tone as he continued, “I’m not saying I have all of the answers, that’s why I ask for your help, and that of the congregation.” “Some one in the audience tonight might have the perfect solution to our problem and write it down on the comment card on Sunday.”

“We hear you Buster”, said Elder Wiley, “but you can’t lead a blind horse to drink, you know?” “If the people in the valley don’t want to move forward, we may have to do it without them.”

“Are you saying move to a different location if the opportunity presents itself?” asked Elder Diggum.

“I am”, said Elder Wiley. “If the older members can’t or won’t be part of something that’s moving forward, we leave them behind.”

“The old Eskimo approach”, replied Elder Cheatum, “if they’re too old to be of use, we leave them behind for the polar bears.”

“Wait, wait, wait”, said Mulva, “Y’all are upsetting me.” “I’m friends with all of these people, and I don’t want to ‘leave them behind for the polar bears'”

“We won’t, Mulva”, said Elder Cheatum, “We’re just venting our frustrations.” “Hey, I had a crazy idea, y’all tell me what you think about it.”

Elder Cheatum continued, “I was thinking that since we’re getting so much traffic from the Atlanta area that we might talk one of the tour companies down there into putting together a package for folks coming from Atlanta that might include, ‘Lunch with the Reverend’.” “I’m thinking it could be any day or days of the week.” “Reverend Helena has got to eat anyway, right?” “Why not have her show up at a local eatery and break bread with a bus full of folks brought in from the Atlanta environs?”

Since no one had jumped and yelled ‘stop, stop’, Elder Cheatum forged ahead.”Obviously, Helena and the bus driver would eat for free, and we’d share the profits from ticket sales with the tour company and Reverend Helena.” “There’s folks in Atlanta making a living off of Zombie tours; I think this would get us a ton of exposure in the Metroplex without spending a dime.”

“Buster, as your attorney, I advise you to go home and get several nights of sleep”, said Elder Wiley. “I appreciate your creativity, and your steadfast attention to the bottom line, but I think we need to back-burner the tour idea until such time as there is a reason for folks in Atlanta to want to meet Reverend Helena in a coffee shop, in her jeans and tennis shoes.”

Elder Cheatum gave his old friend a look of resignation and said, “You’re probably right, I was just trying to maximize the potential of our asset.” “Having the tour company on the hook for all of the expenses was just too good to not at least mention to you all.”

“Ok, what else is going on?” Elder Cheatum asked as he looked around the table.

“Well, we got the bookmarks in and they look real good”, said Mulva, “the Ladies Auxillary are ready to stuff envelopes whenever we start getting requests.”

“Channel 99 is running the ad this Sunday during collection, so by next week’s meeting we should have a pretty good indication of the ad’s success”, said Elder Diggum.

“Very good”, replied Elder Cheatum, “By the way Mulva, how are things coming with your uninvited guest?”

Mulva studied Elder Cheatum’s face for a second before getting the clue. “Bud says he’s got the security tapes of Reverend Dale’s coming and goings.” “Bud’s scared somebody is going to shoot him for ‘sneaking around.'” “You know we’ve got more guns at TackyToo than the National Guard Armory”. “It’s not unlikely that one of the tenants will shoot Reverend Dale and ask who he was later.”

“Well, if it’s God’s will”, replied Elder Wiley.

Backing away from the stern looks of the other board members, Elder Wiley takes back his comment, “Just kidding, really.” “I want Dale Bread to live a long prosperous life, so he can take care of his wife and kids.”

“Ok, I’ve just got one more thing”, Elder Cheatum said, “Mulva, I know that Bud dabbles in the internet, do you think you could ask him to do a webpage for us?” “We could offer him a couple of hundred dollars, if you think we should.”

“No, I’m sure Bud would be happy to do it for free”, Mulva replied. “He’s up all hours anyway, might as well be doing something useful.”

“Well thanks, Mulva, I appreciate your kind offer”, replied Elder Cheatum, “and could you make sure that Bud keeps those security tapes of Reverend Dale safe for us?”

There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned.

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All Creatures of Our God And King LIII

BudLiteGood morning, y’all. Are we relieved to know that the Munich shooter had no Isis ties? Probably not. My world view is that crazy is crazy, and if crazy birds flock together, it doesn’t justify crazy. People who identify with extreme fundamentalist movements have got a screw loose to begin with, in my opinion. The fact that they can find others that have the same defective part, doesn’t legitimize the imperfection. Lumping people into a group for the purposes of ginning up the fear level doesn’t work for me either. It only helps the arms manufacturers, no one else.

Speaking of fundamentalist movements brings us back to our retelling of the history of The Full Gospel Original Church of God. As Elder Cheatum drove to the church for Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting, he was struck once again by the idyllic setting. The drive to the church was one of the most scenic in the area. The church was nestled on the side of a hill overlooking a valley with a stream running through the middle. The original founders of the little church had found the perfect spot to bring people together in fellowship.

“That is my dilemma, my quandary”, the Elder thought to himself as he pulled into the parking lot. Now that The Full Gospel Original Church of God was busting at the seams from the influx of new members, a decision had to be made as to whether to do nothing and stay small, build new facilities on the present location, or relocate to a new facility. Each option had the potential for the church to lose its current impetus.

The Elder had asked Reverend Handbasket to ask the congregation to stay behind a little longer tonight for a discussion of great importance. At the end of the services, the Elder walked from his customary seat in the last row, past a full auditorium. As the Elder walked to the pulpit, he decided he would be as direct as he could with the audience seated before him. He had known most of the people all of his life. They were his friends and their feelings mattered to him. 

“As you all have noticed, we have experienced a bit of a growth spurt.” Elder Cheatum smiled as he looked out over the faithful. “Our little church is kind of like the teenager who has outgrown his new blue jeans before you can even get them home from the store.”

The Elder waited for the short laugh from the congregation to subside before he continued, “We’ve slapped mobile homes down both sides of the church, and as you can see, they’re full.”  “We’ve added these big screen TVs and all of the speakers to provide a better experience, but, everything we’ve done appears to be stop gap measures,” he said as he waved his arms to indicate the improvements.

“The question before us is threefold, I think.”  “Do we limit our growth and say ‘no’ to new members?” “Do we try to build on our existing site to provide a home for our expanding congregation?” “Or, do we seek another site?”, the Elder asked.

A buzz was circulating in the congregation, and Elder Cheatum raised his voice to regain control.

“I know that since the TV broadcasts started, more and more folks have been coming to our church; and they’re coming back, again and again.” “People have started queueing up for the 11AM service at about 10:15.” “I see them when I come to Sunday School.”

The Elder paused and grinned at the audience before he continued.

“I know that this influx of newcomers is causing a great deal of  anxiety for most of our older members.” “The people that were married at The Full Gospel Original Church of God, had their babies baptized here, and yes, had demons cast out here, feel like they shouldn’t have to jockey for seats.” “I get that, I understand that, that’s why I’ve asked Reverend Helena to let me speak here tonight.”

The Elder took a big breath and continued, “I would like to propose a temporary solution, another stopgap if you will, until we answer the larger question of future growth.” “I would like to propose that we offer additional services on Sunday.” “There could be a 7AM service, the usual 11AM service, and a 3PM service.”

Emboldened by the lack of dissent, the Elder continued on, “Now, in my mind, this solution has a lot of upside.” “Some folks might be happy to attend the 7AM service, and well, to be honest, get the formal proceedings over with.” “Then they’d have the rest of the day to do quiet reflection on their own, or watch the Bulldog wrap-up, as the case may be.”

The Elder waited for the laughter to die down before continuing, “The 3PM service might fit young people’s lifestyle a little better, and we do seem to be getting more of these folks since the telecasts.” “It might be a better fit for people traveling from outside of Union county.” 

The Elder could see that some of the older members were buying into his implication that the new members would be attending the services at the new start times, and leaving the traditional 11Am time slot to them. Satisfied that he was still on firm ground, the Elder continued.

Now, to be fair, I do have to bring up the downside of the proposed schedule change.” “We will be basically doubling the Reverend Helena Handbasket’s workload, and I’m reasonably sure that Reverend Helena is not going to be happy performing in this capacity for an extended period of time.” “To that end, we will still have to work out our facility issue as soon as possible.” “Besides, no one has asked our ophidian friends how they feel about doing three Testaments of Faith a day.”

The Elder waited for the laugh before continuing,  “I’m sure they’ll be fine as long as they are in Reverend Handbasket’s hands.”

Elder Cheatum gave a sweeping gaze to every corner of the auditorium before speaking again, “Well, that’s the long and the short of it.” “The church board members wanted to let you know that we’re aware of everyone’s concerns, and that we’re working on solutions.” “There will be comment cards in the back of your pews on Sunday to scribble down your thoughts.” “Just turn them in with your tithe.”

As the Elder turned the podium back to the Reverend he realized he was sweating like the proverbial lady of ill-repute in a house of worship. He hoped the other board members didn’t realize that he had pushed his Dale Canegie, “Speak More Effectively” course to the max. He walked quickly back to the office and the comfortable security of his old friends.

 

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All Creatures of Our God And King LII

BudLiteGood morning, y’all. As we ponder the unique gifts bestowed on Donald Trump that endow him, and only him, the ability to make America great again, we are reminded that many of the problems we experience in the United States are not unique to us. A crazed gunman has shot innocents at a mall in Munich. England’s economy is crashing due to the white supremacists decision to exit the EU. Turkey is beginning a purge based off of the recent coup. I for one think The Donald is better suited to taking on any of these other countries’ problem and letting America see if it can get better on its own.

Speaking of making things better brings us back to the retelling of the history of The Full Gospel Original Church of God. Wednesday morning’s breakfast was filled with the news of Bud Lite’s early morning encounter with the Bread family. Mulva had called Elder Cheatum with the details shortly after the Elder’s breakfast orders had arrived at their table.

Elder Cheatum sat his phone on the table to allow the other Elders, and patrons, hear the account in real time. “Bud got a call about a clogged toilet, with ‘water everywhere’, at 6AM this morning for the trailer where Alva Bread and her kids are staying.” “Well, he walked in to find Reverend Dale standing in the bedroom to the right of the front door with nothing between him and the Lord but a smile.”

Mulva continued, “Let me just say right here that Bud is real uncomfortable with male nudity, and that probably made him madder than anything else.” “In his defense, Reverend Dale seemed as startled as Bud, and Bud says he hid in the back room while Bud went to work in the hall bathroom.” “Well the floor is standing in water, but it’s clear water, if you know what I mean”.

At this point, Elder Diggum stopped the methodical cycle of his fork from plate to mouth. He seemed content to just listen to the story that Mulva was continuing to unfold.

Mulva pressed on, “The good news is that it was just an overflow of water.” ” The bad news is that simply plunging isn’t getting rid of the clog.” “Bud has to go and get the Johnny Jolter, his super plunger.” “On his trip back to the tool shed, Bud walked around the park to see if he could find Reverend Dale’s car.” “Turns out, Reverend Dale was parked in front of Number Fifty Three, Anita Goodman’s trailer.” “Maybe it’s just a coincidence.”

Mulva continues, “Anyway, long story short, Bud comes back to Alva’s trailer and after three or four big plunges, he clears the clog.” “Well, portions of the clog are coming to the surface attached to the plunger.”

Elder Cheatum tried to grab his phone and turn off the speaker. Before the Elder can act, Alva spits out one word, “Condoms.” 

“Bud says it looked like somebody flushed down a whole box of condoms.” “Bud’s take is that the eldest boy, Devin, flushed them down to call attention to the fact that Reverend Dale was back in the house.” “I just can’t imagine an eight year old being that devious, but, no matter, it appears that Reverend Dale and Alva are working on mending fences.”

Mulva caught her breath for half a second and continued, “I’m sorry to call you so early, I know you all must have more important things on your minds.” “I just had to give you the news, and I guess to let you know that Bud is about to lose it.” “I’m going to need to give him a lot of space until he calms down, so I’ll probably be working at the church today if anybody needs anything.”

“All right, thanks for the update”, said Elder Cheatum, “I’ll check in with you later.”

Elder Cheatum turned off the speaker of his phone and returned it to its case attached to his belt. The Elder reached for the little pot of coffee to refill his cup before speaking.

So it appears the first born Bread has got it in for his old man,” Elder Cheatum said, “Interesting.” “It looks like we have a sub plot of the son wanting to ‘out’ his old man.” 

“Hard to imagine that level of devious thinking in an eight-year-old”, said Elder Wiley, “I mean that trick with the baby rattle was inspired, but it might have been Alva’s idea.” “This sounds like it was just the kid.”

Elder Diggum had recovered from the shock of all of the ‘potty talk’ and started devouring his breakfast again. “Who buys condoms by the box?” “I mean that’s thirty or forty condoms, right?” “That’s fifteen birthday’s and Christmases, with a few left over for those spontaneous moments we hear so much about.”

“Somebody with seven kids, that’s who,” Elder Cheatum replied, “I’d love for Dale to get it together and take over the responsibility of his family, but this doesn’t feel right.” “This feels like he’s cheating on Ophelia with his wife, and that is just weird.”

“Barry, it’s your turn”, the Elder concluded as he handed Elder Diggum the check.  As the three friends stood in the parking lot saying their goodbyes, Elder Cheatum was struck by inspiration.

“I think I’m going to test the waters with the congregation tonight after services.” Elder Cheatum said. “Prayer Meeting attendees are our ‘core constituency’, the people who are in church every time the door is open.” “I think I’ll float a trial balloon tonight, and see if anyone wants to shoot it down.”

“Well, I can help you with that,” said Elder Wiley, “tell me, and I’ll shoot it down, and save you the embarrassment of standing in front of everybody.” 

“I know that you would”, grinned Elder Cheatum, “but, I think I need a less biased audience.”

Elder Cheatum got his car and slid down the window, “Be prepared for anything, and you won’t be surprised.” The words of the Elder’s pedophilic former scoutmaster did not encourage the other two elders.