Good morning, y’all. As we throw the apple chips in the Big Green Egg and adjust the temperature for a long slow cook, we are reminded of what it is like to live in this ongoing experiment called representative democracy. Like real democracy, representative democracy has its flaws. First among them is the fact that our representatives are able to chose who among us they represent. That kind of takes voting out of the process, which is the hallmark of the democratic system. Just something to ponder while we turn a pig into the most gorgeous animal imaginable.
Speaking of pondering brings us back to the retelling of the history of The Full Gospel Original Church of God. The board meeting following Wednesday night prayer meeting had opened with an attempt at joviality. Elder Cheatum had related an old joke told to him by his grandfather,
“Did you hear the one about the choir director that chased the pastor around the church?”
“She caught him by the organ.”
“My granddaddy told me that joke when I was about 10.” “I didn’t get it then, but I certainly do now.”
As he looked around the room the Elder saw nothing but frowns on the other member’s faces. “Too soon?”, he asked.
Mulva Lite reported to the group that the scandal between the Right Reverend Dale E. Bread and Mrs. Bread was reaching Biblical proportions among the congregation. One staunch member of the Ladies Auxillary, Constance Winer, claimed to have seen Mrs. Bread abusing the snakes prior to the snakes being moved outside for the fish fry. From Constance’s description of the incident, it sounded like any snake that Reverend Bread chose to work with would have been less than amenable to the Reverend. The fact that it was Old Ben, well, that was just the luck of the draw.
Mulva continued on, “Seems like there are a lot of discussions of whether law enforcement needs to be notified or not.”
“My take is no”, replied Elder Wiley, “the Reverend knew the risks, and all that Alva Bread did was raise the odds for disaster a little.” “Sort of like adding the second bullet to a gun in Russian roulette.” Elder Wiley continued, “Alva didn’t make the Reverend pick up the gun, er, snake.”
“We’ll see how it plays out.” Elder Diggum said, “Law enforcement can show tremendous restraint in involving themselves in family matters, sometimes.” “Maybe they won’t want to amuse themselves with our little domestic struggle.”
There being no further business, Elder Wiley called Reverend Bread to join them in the office. As the Reverend sat down he began speaking before anyone else had a chance.
“I just want to tell you all how sorry I am for all of this mess.” The Reverend began, “I am working to repair the damage done to my marriage, and I ask that you give me enough time to get that squared away before you make any decisions about my employment.” “I know I don’t deserve a second chance, but I’m appealing to your charity to give me one.”
The Reverend looked each board member in the eye as he made his appeal. There was no doubting the look of sincerity in his eyes.
“I tell you Dale, I’m not sure which is more upsetting, your infidelity or your lack of discretion.” Elder Cheatum said. “Our church has been tarred by your actions.” “We have become the laughing stock of North Georgia.”
The Reverend lowered his head for a few seconds. When he raised it again there were tears in his eyes.
“I promise you, it won’t happen again,” said the Reverend, “I’m begging for your compassion.”
Elder Wiley looked the Reverend square in the eye as he delivered the news. “You are on suspension until further notice.” “Your pay will be docked an equal amount to the amount we pay the substitute preachers.” “All of your family’s other privileges will remain in place, until further notice.” “We want you to recover, no one wants you to succeed more than the people in this room.” “That said, we’re done with your shenanigans.” “Go to a psychiatrist, if you need to, to work out your issue with snakes.” “Go to a counselor, if you need to, to work out your issues with your wife.” “Whatever it takes, you’ve got ninety days to get yourself solved; less if there are any reports of any further improprieties.”
“Do we understand each other?” The Elder asked.
“Yes sir”, the Reverend replied, “Thank you all, I won’t let you down again, I promise.”
The Elders watched the Reverend through the window of the office as he returned to his home next door. Elder Diggum summed up the situation for all of the members of the group. “It’s just a dang shame,” he said.
Sunday’s services were once again handled by Reverend Helena Handbasket. In spite of the heat, The Full Gospel Original Church of God was once again packed to the rafters.
“Hot enough to melt the hinges on the doors of hell”, thought Elder Cheatum as he looked at the packed sanctuary.
The Elder tried to pick out the “flatlanders” from his vantage in the back row. Folks were now coming from as far away as Atlanta to see the Reverend Handbasket wield her otherworldly magic with the serpents. The Reverend had seen a few cars in the parking lot with Fulton, Dekalb and Cobb county plates.
“Everybody that lives up here must have kin that has moved to the city”, the Elder thought.
It was a good thing to have people come back home, even if it was as a curiosity. The Elder hoped the experience for the city dwellers was everything that their mountain cousins had promised. In spite of the fact that Reverend Handbasket was not working with a timber rattler yet, her serpent skills were formidable. Where Reverend Handbasket really excelled, though, was her showmanship. Her command of the stage was without parallel, there was no denying it. What the Elders were having a hard time denying was the Reverend’s request to pay her as much as “any man”.
If Helena kept dragging the crowds like she’d been doing, and the crowds kept tithing like they were embarrassed they weren’t giving more, then Elder Cheatum could certainly see a way forward to paying her more. Besides, it would only be for another ninety days or so while Reverend Dale got his act together. Then everything would return to normal, and maybe some of the today’s visitors would have decided to stick with the little church.
Lost in his revelry, Elder Cheatum almost missed his cue to start the collection plate moving. The Elder stayed in the “now” for the balance of the sermon and took his place at the door at the end of the service. Looking back at the altar he could see that Reverend Handbasket was still working with a crowd requesting blessings. There was no denying it, she had something. “Maybe the church ought to get her a fruit basket or something”, he thought, “I’ll have to ask Mulva what she thinks.” The Elder made a mental note as he shook hands and patted backs. He vowed to ask Mulva after Prayer Meeting on Wednesday night.