Good morning, y’all. What more do I have to say than it’s the thirtieth anniversary of the release of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”. I wish the weather here was such that we could go to a ballgame, ride around in a Ferrari with the top down, or just generally be merry pranksters. It’s not, it’s hot, and watching the movie on my Betamax in the Rec room was all of the energy I could muster for a hot, hot Friday night.
As we continue our tale of history of the Little Church in the Valley, making it to Friday was a goal for the committee searching for a new minister. On Thursday, Elder Cheatum was confronted with the fact that his headliner, the Right Reverend Hap T. Johnstone was covered in boils. Well, not boils so much as really big pimples, but still, not a good look for a healer.
Elder Cheatum headed back to the rectory to see how many of the members of the committee were on hand, and if they needed to call anyone in to get a quorum. All the members of the committee were still on the grounds, and all but Mulva Lite were rounded up for the meeting. Mulva was in charge of the Ladies Auxillary’s preparation of supper that night, and it was felt her efforts were best served getting everyone fed.
Elder Cheatum related his confrontation with the Right Reverend Hap T. Johnstone as dispassionately as he could to the other members. Tonight’s lineup, as revealed by the Excel spreadsheet, showed Bill Foldes opening for Hap T. Johnstone in Tent One, Rocky Rhoades opening for Al DaBino in Tent Two, and Dale E. Bread opening for Brighton Early in Tent Three. The committee looked from one to another for a solution to replacing their headliner. It was resolved that either Dale E. Bread or Rocky Rhoades could step in if Hap Johnstone could not go on.
The committee leaned towards Reverend Bread, he had done so well in his turn on Tuesday night. Others pointed out that it should be Reverend Rhoades since he had not had a turn before a really big crowd. The crowds would undoubtedly fall off after word got out that the headliner was not performing. The decision was decided that Elder Cheatum was to alert Reverend Rhoades, and Reverend Bread, that there might be a lineup change. They would need to “stay close” in case they were needed. Feeling like they had beaten the subject to death, the committee left the rectory and walked to the picnic tables setup for tonight’s supper.
They were the first to arrive, and, as a result, grabbed the table closest to the kettles of oil being used to deep fry the catfish and hushpuppies. The committee had already had “firsts” when the rest of the invited arrived. The mood of all seemed to be spirited and altogether jovial. There was some good-natured fun poked at Reverend Rhoades, who was not aware that a bottom feeding fish could be battered and deep fried into a delicacy. Reverend Rhoades grabbed a big laugh from the crowd when he asked, “And I suppose these use to be ugly suede shoes that have been battered and deep-fried?” as he bit into huspuppy. Everyone had a good laugh, and then the Reverend Rhoades showed he had just as much charisma as the Reverend Bread when he continued with, “I’m sure even if they had been shoes, these ladies would turn them into something scrumptious.”
Elder Cheatum waited for the focus to move away from Reverend Rhoades before approaching him with the possible schedule change. Reverend Rhoades seemed to be eager for the chance, while expressing concern for Hap Johnstone’s health. The Elder assured Reverend Rhoades that it was just a possibility, not a sure thing, before moving off to locate Reverend Bread. Reverend Bread was spotted eating at the picnic table furthest from the committee, sitting next to Ms. Leer. The Elder felt like he was breaking into a very private conversation, and half way wondered if his news would be redundant. Ms. Leer might already be telling Reverend Bread of the severity of the Right Reverend Johnstone’s condition. Still, the Elder need to make sure that Reverend Bread was on board, so he walked over to the couple and cleared his throat.
The couple broke off their conversation immediately, and Elder Cheatum alerted Reverend Bread to keep himself available for any eventuality. Ms. Leer made no comment until asked specifically if the Reverend Johnstone was feeling any better. Crystal replied, “a little”, but then assured Elder Cheatum that Hap was going on, if he had to “wrestle with the devil himself to get on that stage.” Amused at the possibility, Elder Cheatum walked off to do his final walk around.
Satisfied that all of the processes that the committee were responsible for were functioning as well as could be expected, the Elder headed to Tent number one. As he arrived at the tent, the lights throughout the parking lot flickered and the hymn, “All Are Welcome” starting playing over the loud speakers. Elder Cheatum slipped into the last row of the tent as Reverend William J. Foldes took the stage.
Reverend Foldes, like Reverend Early, was freshly ordained by The Pentecostal Theological Seminary over in Cleveland. Reverend Foldes had returned back to his hometown of Asheville, after graduation, to assist his dad while waiting for his first post. Reverend Foldes was second generation clergy. Reverend Foldes, the elder, was minister to the “My Love Is A Rock” church in West Asheville. In spite of the fact that snake handling is illegal in North Carolina, Reverend Foldes serpent skills were respectable. Where Reverend Foldes was believed to excel was in the laying of hands. There were very positive reports coming from the afflicted returning from the Reverend Foldes’s services.
Elder Cheatum was more than just a little amused at Reverend Foldes’ garb. The young Reverend was decked out in full canonical robes. For this time of year, it seemed like the absolute worst choice of clothing. In addition, the Little Church in the Valley prided itself on its relaxed attitude, and the robes gave the impression of worshiping in the Vatican. The Elder hoped the attendees of the revival would not be too turned off by the ostentatiousness of the robes. Clothing was something the committee could correct, though, and Elder Cheatum paid attention to what the young man had to say.
The Reverend’s sermon was entitled, “God Heals Today”, and the young man did a good job with it. The Elder was impressed with how the young man had taken an old standard from the Pentecostal playbook and made it his own. That took real skill. Before the Elder had time to squirm in his seat, the sermon was over and the young reverend was headed down to the floor in front of the altar for the Testament of Faith. Reverend Foldes did a credible job with the serpents and before long he was positioning himself to bring relief to the afflicted lined up before him. Evidently his fame had proceeded him as the aisles were as full as they were for Hap Johnstone.
Elder Cheatum was making a mental note that the young Reverend had not spoken in tongues during the sermon or during the Testament of Faith and wondered if the spirit was going to express himself during the laying of hands. As afflicted waited patiently for their turn, Elder Cheatum saw his old friend Hugh Morris queue up to the front of the line. What happened next changed the course of the Little Church in the Valley forever.
Following the precepts of laying of hands 101, the young reverend grabbed the afflicted by both ears and gave their head a back and forth shaking. Next, he placed his hands on the believer’s forehead and gave a squeeze and then a push. While he manipulated the afflicted, the Reverend spoke in the unknown language briefly, and then he pushed the believer back. While the “healed” member was caught by a church Elder, Reverend Folde’s normal speaking voice returned and he proceeded to the next in line. All was going smoothly until Hugh Morris placed his faith in Jesus and his life in the hands of Reverend William J. Foldes.
Hugh fell back so suddenly and heavily after being grabbed by Reverend Foldes that the Elder did not catch him. Hugh hit the ground with a thud. Attempts to help Hugh back up failed, and after a minute or so, the folks around the altar realized they had a real problem. Calls to “call 911” came from the front of the tent and pandemonium was breaking loose. Elder Cheatum rushed to the front of the tent to lend assistance, and knelt beside his old friend to offer comfort him. Elder Cheatum looked back at the young reverend from his vantage point on the floor and he could see something at the base of the Reverend’s palm, just under the sleeve of the Reverend’s robe. The Elder swiftly left the side of his old friend to go to the altar and confront Reverend Foldes. “We need to talk, quietly, don’t say a word, just come with me.”, the Elder whispered.
Elder Cheatum took the reverend out through the back of the tent and then led him to the rectory. Protestations by the young reverend were just met by a tighter grip and a quickening of the pace. In short order they were inside of the rectory where the Elder made sure the room was clear before ordering the young reverend to remove his robes. Pleas for understanding were not considered. After much a do, Reverend Foldes stood before Elder Cheatum without his robes. There were wires taped to his arms that led to contact points in the palms of his hands. The wires continued to the Reverend’s back where they connected to a battery pack containing several nine volt batteries. The battery pack was strapped to the small of the reverend’s back.
As the sirens of the ambulance filled the parking lot of the revival, Elder Cheatum started the phone tree for an emergency meeting of the committee. “Why me o’ Lord, why me” the Elder asked to no one in particular.