Good morning, y’all. Such a flip between the saneness of having all of the world’s countries coming together and presenting their fittest athletes for healthy competition, and the insanity of political competition. While the best among us strive to win the ultimate prize, an Olympic Gold Medal, the Donald wallows in the glow of being given a Purple Heart by a follower. “I always wanted one”, the Donald said. Gee, had the doctor that wrote the Donald the medical exemption for bone spurs only known, the Donald could have had his chance to earn one on his own in VietNam. There were 351,794 Purple Hearts awarded in VietNam, so there’s a good chance the Donald could have earned one. An even better chance that it would have come from friendly fire.
Speaking of earning things brings us back to the retelling of the history of The Full Gospel Original Church of God. Sunday January 31st marked the return of the Right Reverend Dale E. Bread to the pulpit of the little church in the valley. The move was not without controversy. Reverend Dale was not “out of the doghouse” with many of the church’s members, and it was a risky move on the part of the church board to give Reverend Dale a second chance. The Elders could use “Christian charity” to describe their move, but in reality, the move was a shrewd, calculated financial decision. The board was using every resource available to them to bridge the gap between today and the eventual move to the Crystal Palace. As the church couldn’t afford, or would not pay, to have Ted E. Bayer and his Love Fellowship play an additional two times per week, the choral director duties for the new services were given to Ophelia Bottoms.
If the congregation had any concerns about Ms. Bottoms sincerity in serving the Lord and putting all of the business with the Right Reverend behind her, they were dispelled by her heartfelt delivery of the gathering hymn that Sunday. The embarrassed choir director chose the 23rd Psalm to begin her new incarnation at the little church. It was the most beautiful rendition of the 23rd Psalm that many of the followers had ever heard, leaving many of the followers in tears.
It was clear to one and all that the two participants of the most famous coupling since Space X hooked up to the International Space Station, were busily redeeming themselves with the congregation. The Right Reverend Dale E. Bread was conducting services at 9AM and 3PM to help alleviate the overflowing crowds at the church.
Choral director, Ophelia Bottoms, was working the new services to provide the congregation with the most enlightening musical experience she could using whatever resources she could muster. Fortunately, she could always count on the deep Bass voice of Bubba Hoakum to be available any time the doors of the church were open. Adding a tinge of soap opera drama to the proceedings was the fact that all of the new services were being conducted under the watchful eye of Alva Bread and her brood.
The morning service contained some new members and some old. There were between forty five and fifty in the crowd, and it was hoped that those people would not return fro the 11AM service.
“Freeing up an additional fifty seats for the main service is a bargain”, thought Elder Cheatum as he walked through the congregation on his way to Sunday school. It was assumed that Reverend Dale would pay for himself from the collections received from both services. Collections that exceeded Reverend Dale’s pay were “a gift” in Elder Cheatum’s eyes.
The “Elders in training” had been assigned the collection duties for the new services. Elder Cheatum was happy to be training the next generation and he felt good about the men they had chosen. The weeks of close scrutiny of their collections had revealed no improprieties.
“If any of the ‘Elders in training’ are stealing, it isn’t much”, reasoned Elder Cheatum.
Promptly at the end of Reverend Dale’s redemption service, Channel 99 moved in to get ready for the 11AM service. The broadcast that day would reach out to the newly added markets of Savannah and Macon, joining Columbus and North Georgia. The Channel 99 crew worked feverishly to check and double check every wire, cable and camera. Having statewide distribution of a telecast was the “big leagues” for the little station, and they didn’t want to be embarrassed by making a rookie mistake. Producer Jebediah Dye saw himself doing much bigger things someday, and he hoped to use the phenenom of the Reverend Helena Handbasket to spring board to bigger things.
In spite of the morning service, and the biting cold, the church was still standing room only. While the upbeat selections of the Love Fellowship tended to motivate the congregation to movement, being packed cheek to jowl also contributed to the rhythmic swaying in unison of the followers.
“I don’t think you could pull a sheet of paper between them”, Elder Cheatum thought as he looked at how closely packed the auditorium was. Children under the age of twelve were, by necessity, lap children.
“I bet the airlines would love to figure out how to do this”, the Elder chuckled to himself as he leaned his back against the wall at his post at the back of the church.
“She looks positively radiant”, thought Elder Cheatum as Reverend Helena strode to the pulpit. Reverend Helena’s hair seemed to have an extra sparkle this week. Her cheeks had just a touch of red, as if she had just run up a flight of steps, but her voice did not indicate that she was out of breath.
Reverend Helena Handbasket’s sermon this week was on Greed. The Reverend invoked the vision of the fiery lake for those in the congregation who had planned on taking their riches with them. The most simple follower, either in church or TV land understood by the end of the sermon that the opposite of “greed” is “give”. If one wanted to avoid eternal discomfort in the afterlife all you had to do was to give in this life. Reverend Helena closed the sermon out with Matthew 19:24, “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
Elder Cheatum could barely contain his excitement during the Altar Call and the Testament of Faith. His collection plate had felt heavier this week than ever before, and unless the people were putting coins in their donation envelopes, today’s final tally was going to be a humdinger.