Good morning, y’all. Our weather has been rainstorms interspersed with blasts of sunshine like the death rays of science fiction movies. Folks are flocking into the Rec room to escape the ninety degree plus temperatures we’re experiencing here in the mountains. Those that are physically fit enough, or just don’t care, are lounging about the pool in their bathing suits. Summer is here, two weeks early.
Speaking of Summer puts me in mind of that fateful Summer Revival 2010. When we left our story it was Wednesday night, the third night of the revival. Supper has been served for the headliners and staff. Reverend Dale E. Bread is headed to Tent number three to do his sound check when he hears someone calling his name. He turns to see that it is the assistant of the Right Reverend Hap T. Johnstone. Try as he might, Reverend Dale can’t help but throw out a line. “You can’t catch fish if you don’t throw out a line”, Dale reasons.
Hap’s assistant seems to appreciate the effort and beams mightily. “I just wanted to tell you how much I appreciated your sermon the other night, it was inspired”. Reverend Dale looked down on the beautiful girl and smiled, revealing thirty two perfect teeth.
“Why, thank you very much, I appreciate the praise from someone who is used to hearing the best”.
“Well, I don’t know about that,” Crystal replied coyly, “I just wanted you to know that I think you’re special”.
“Well, thank you so much”, “I’m on opposite Hap tonight, so I guess you won’t be able to catch my sermon”.”Maybe we can discuss some of my favorite scriptures, or yours, after?”
“Maybe”, Crystal replied, and then she was headed off to the tour bus. Reverend Bread headed towards Tent number three with an extra bounce his step. He was buoyed so much by the encounter that he had gotten past the fact the Reverend Al Dabino was his opening act. That Edgar Winter looking son of a gun could turn off an audience quicker than a fly in a bowl of grits.
Unobserved by the two young people was Elder Cheatum starting his final rounds before night three began. Elder Cheatum knocked on the door of the tour bus just in time to hear the Right Reverend Hap T. Johnstone yell, “Where in the Hell have you been?”. Prepared to let the Right Reverend know who the boss of this rodeo was, he started to enter the door of the tour bus. The door was being opened by Hap’s assistant, who was biting her lower lip.
“I brought by your fee”, Elder Chetaum said as he handed Crystal the envelope containing ten, one hundred dollar bills. “Y’all need help with anything before you go on?”, he asked.
Hap was sitting on the sofa across from the open door in his underwear. “We’re finer than snuff, and not near as dusty”, Hap replied, “We’re looking forward to a spirit filled evening”.
“Well good, glad to hear it”, “I’ll leave you to it then”, Elder Cheatum called into the closing door.
As the bus door closed, Elder Cheatum caught a glance of the Right Reverend’s bare legs. The light revealed what was either a horrible rash, or terrible bruising on Hap’s legs. Elder Cheatum slipped around to the front of the bus. He wanted to see if there were going to be any more outbursts from inside the bus. There were no more loud voices, so Elder Cheatum moved on. Elder Cheatum continued his last loop around the grounds before taking up a position in the back of Tent number one. It was Elder Cheatum’s turn to watch Brighton Early.
Promptly at 7PM, the lights flickered throughout the parking lot and the speakers started playing the hymn, “All Are Welcome”, and Reverend Brighton Early bounded onto the stage. Elder Cheatum had heard hundreds of ministers over the years, thousands of sermons, but he had never heard a minister start his sermon with, “All right, all right, all right”. This was going to be interesting.
Reverend Brighton Early was freshly ordained at The Pentecostal Theological Seminary over in Cleveland, Tennessee. He was so new that his mailing address was still in Cleveland. Brighton was the “pick of the litter” of the newly ordained ministers, or so the committee had been told by the Minister Referral Service at the seminary. Reverend Early possessed a certain charm that resounded well with the younger worshipers. His repertoire of sermons was straight out of the Seminary’s “Top Fifty”, and his healing and serpent skills were suspect. He was young, and so one would presume that he would learn. Brighton Early’s attraction was his connection to the youth market and his salary demands. If the young reverend could be secured, “on the cheap”, and had the ability to bring in new members, he might be a good choice. This was the first time the Little Church in the Valley was going outside of the Hawker family for a minister, so all of the options needed to be considered.
Reverend Brighton Early’s sermon was entitled, “Speaking in Tongues, Is It For Today?” Reverend Early took the standard Pentecostal sermon and interspersed it with a litany of modern day references. Brighton added scenes from the movies “Ironman”, and “Unbreakable” to try to infuse the ancient practice with relevance for the younger audience. Reverend Early was all over the map, as far as Elder Cheatum was concerned. The Elder found himself patting his foot, waiting for the altar call and Testament of Faith.
Finally it was over, no snakes or sinners had been damaged. The Elder tried not to judge too harshly, “lest he be judged”, but he did not see a future for the Little Church in the Valley in the hands of Reverend Brighton Early. Attracting new membership, particularly of the youthful variety was the lifeblood of any church. That said, Elder Cheatum felt that you couldn’t “throw out the baby with the bathwater”. In this case, you couldn’t let the baby throw out the bathwater. Reverend Brighton Early was too “Early” in his career to carry the torch passed by Reverend Daniel.
“Too Early”, Elder Cheatum chuckled to himself. He’d have to remember that one for the committee meeting tomorrow. Now the Elder turned his attention back to the stage as the Right Reverend Hap T. Johnstone’s entourage took their places. Would the Little Church in the Valley get their money’s worth again?