Good morning, y’all. If you have fun filling your head with minutia, and I know I surely do, then you’ll be happy to know that today is National Dollar Day. August 8, 1786 is the day that our beloved Congress established the U.S. monetary system. So, that kind of makes it National Dollar Day! It is speculated that the political campaigns will spend 4.4 billion dollars this year on TV advertising trying to get their respective candidate ensconced in the White House. Makes you wonder how a job that pays $450,000 a year is worth it, doesn’t it? There must be some other perks there somewhere.
Speaking of collecting mountains of cash to further an agenda brings us back to the retelling of the history of The Full Gospel Original Church of God. Reverend Dale continued his rehabilitation that week by wielding a paint brush at the Crystal Palace. There could be an argument made for the value of his work as it also carried with it babysitting duties for the Ladies Auxillary for his brood. Alva Bread was no longer allowing her husband out of her sight, and where Alva went, generally speaking, the brood went.
Work on rehabilitating the former Mormon sanctuary was coming along as well as the weather and the volunteer’s schedules would permit. There was an assortment of little jobs that suited themselves to a well directed volunteer coordinating everyone’s efforts. Mulva Lite coordinated as well as she could in between her secretary/treasures duties back in Nunsuch and her constant mission of leading the Ladies Auxillary. The Ladies Auxillary was stretched to the max caring for the infirmed, stuffing and opening envelopes for the Bible bookmarks campaign and keeping all of the church properties in spotless order.
Accounting for all of the church’s money was keeping Mulva awake at night. She had never been exposed to the amounts of cash that were being generated. Many was the time when she would wake up from a nightmare that involved her putting the night deposit bag in the book return deposit at the Nunsuch library, or some other nonsensical place. It didn’t help her anxiety that her husband Bud was continually complaining about the back rent owed to him by the Bread family. Mulva had never used the monthly stipend of a thousand dollars allocated by the church board for the Bread’s upkeep to help alleviate the Bread’s indebtedness. Her commitment to “Christian charity” was steadfast.
Mulva had used Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”, so many times to explain her position that when Bud heard the words “Do not store”, he would immediately leave the room. Bud knew when an argument was already lost.
Elder Cheatum decided to put his Sunday School perfect attendance award at risk by attending the 9AM service at the little church that Sunday. The Elder was curious as too how much spin had been taken off of Reverend Dale’s fastball, using baseball terminology. The Elder was happy that the Reverend was not a blubbering hot mess, but Reverend Dale was not up to his previous stature. Reverend Dale’s sermon had punch, and his singing and his glossolalia were first rate, but his serpent skills were embarrassing.
As Elder Cheatum looked at the congregation from his “old” spot in the last row, he didn’t notice any restlessness among the crowd. The sanctuary was half-filled with a mix of the old and new members. Elder Cheatum speculated that as the Superbowl neared, the “early show” might draw higher numbers. At the Altar call Elder Cheatum rushed to his Sunday School class, keeping his perfect attendance record intact.
After Sunday School, Elder Cheatum walked outside and was pleasantly surprised to find the weather warming up a bit. The Elder stood at the door and greeted as many people as he could as the parking lot and the road in front of the church filled with cars. At the gathering hymn, the Elder moved five feet backwards to stand inside along the back wall of the church. The Reverend Helena Handbasket came to the pulpit looking flushed. If she was flustered about something it did not come across in her delivery.
On this Sunday, the Reverend Helen Handbasket was fanning the flames of Hell so high that even some of the old-timers were surprised by the Reverend’s “old timey religion” tone.
“I’m sure that some of the congregation is going to need to put Aloe vera on their backsides after services today”, thought Elder Cheatum.
Reverend Helena’s sermon was on “Lust”, and it was a topic the Reverend seemed to be highly opinionated on. Not content to let the seventh commandment stand on its own, “That Shalt Not Commit Adultery” , the Reverend invoked 1 John 2:16 to flesh out her argument, “For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.” Elder Cheatum was surprised to find his mind speculating as to whether the Reverend’s opinions were formulated from personal exploration, or if the Reverend was just well read on the topic. Either way, the fire was coming from one direction and the brimstone from the other.
The Reverend Helen Handbasket delivered the entire message balancing on the edge of the stage. The cameras from Channel 99 caught the light just right behind her, giving her that other worldly glow that has drawn so many to the church. Her voice took on a husky tone as she delivered the sermon, and towards the end, her speech pattern was in a sing song rhythm more usually identified with black pastors.
“I wonder if the more old school gospel tone is to reach out to our new audiences in South Georgia”, wondered Elder Cheatum.
Toward the end of the sermon, Reverend Helena seemed on the verge of breaking out into tongues, or actually being possessed, her performance was that transformative. When the TV crew panned the audience, there was not one eye that was not locked on the stage. Most were slack jawed, many with their mouths open. Even the Right Reverend Bread and his collective brood were transfixed on the pastor, and they are known for disrespecting the services. If there was a meter for measuring services, and the top end was an eleven, this would have been a thirteen.
Ironically, the altar call and testament of faith were anti-climatic. It was as if most of the congregation did not have the energy to make it to the altar, even if they felt the call. The Reverend Helen Handbasket had absorbed all of the energy in the room and spun it into a premonition of the hereafter that was so vivid that it rivaled Imax. All of the faithful could see clearly what their afterlife would be, if they continued in their lustful ways.
“Well, if scaring the devil out of folks is our mission, Reverend Helena sure earned her pay today”, thought Elder Cheatum as he headed for the office after the services, “Now let’s see if she scared folks enough to want to make an investment in their salvation”.
From the stacks of checks and cash piling up on the table in front of the secretary/treasurer, it appeared that most members of the congregation had felt need to make a healthy down payment on the mortgage of their soul. Elder Cheatum saw all of the donations that had been made, and it was very good.