Good morning, y’all. To all of us that don’t hear the tones of “Rule Britannia” playing background music in our brains, the decision by the United Kingdom to leave the European Union looks like financial suicide. To the casual observer, it looks like the xenophobes were able to stir up enough of the confused to vote in favor of leaving the EU because the immigrants weren’t white enough. Scotland and Ireland are threatening to stay with the EU, and who can blame them? They’ve certainly been treated more fairly by the EU than the British nobility.
Speaking of being treated fairly brings us back to the history of the Little Church in the Valley. Five years have passed, and the transition from Reverend Daniel Hawker to Reverend Dale E. Bread was not without its issues. Like any good marriage, there has to be give and take on both sides and an acceptance of the others’ peculiarities. So it was with the new reverend and his congregation. Elder Cheatum was ever mindful of the warning given to him by Ms. Leer. A man with more charm than scruples was to be watched carefully. The Elders tried to keep track of the young reverend’s coming and goings as close as they could without being too obvious.
Reverend Daniel attempted to mentor the young reverend as well as he could, right until his passing in 2013. Reverend Daniel’s funeral was attended by over two hundred mourners. Reverend Bread gave Reverend Hawker as fine a send off as one could wish for. The grief was palpable at the funeral, with some of the older members rending their clothes as a sign of their anguish. The tearing of clothes is an ancient custom observed by many religions that dates back to the Old Testament. The tradition signifying deep mourning was first mentioned in the Bible when Jacob was told that his son Joseph was dead. The congregation of the Little Church in the Valley quoted Genesis 37:34, “Jacob rent his clothes, put sackcloth on his loins, and observed mourning for his son many days.“, as the basis for their tradition. Some of the older members chose to wear the torn clothes for a week or more, while not shaving or combing their hair.
After an appropriate time, Reverend Bread started moving the church more in the direction he was comfortable with. He petitioned, and received acceptance into the Church Of God organization based in Cleveland, Tennessee. In keeping with the concept of a “fresh start”, the new reverend had the name of the church formally changed to “The Full Gospel Original Church of God”. The name was proudly displayed on the billboard facing the highway running in front of the church. All print references to the “Little Church in the Valley”, from phone books to Google searches, were corrected to “The Full Gospel Original Church of God”. It was clear that Reverend Bread was interested in developing a new brand for his congregation.
The changes didn’t come without struggle. The Elders and some of the older members were not interested in any change at all. Reverend Bread himself was a big enough change. It was Reverend Bread in his most charismatic moments that convinced the Elders that the future lay in the joining with the larger organization. It was easy to point out the success of the Southern Baptist Convention, which numbered fifteen million members strong. The Southern Baptist Convention was a force to be dealt with, socially and politically. Reverend Bread reminded the Elders of the dark times when snake handling had been punishable by death in Georgia. It was the young reverend’s opinion that there was strength in numbers, and by aligning with the Church of God, they had numbers on their side. The Elders acquiesced.
In truth, the Elders liked where the church was going financially, and were hesitant to pull back on the reins of the young reverend. Reverend Daniel had said himself that the church needed new blood, and Reverend Bread was certainly providing that. In fact, using the colloquialism, “blood” to reference members of one’s family, Reverend Bread was single-handedly bringing new blood to the congregation. The Bread family had exploded to seven children. Joining Devin and Dahlia, were Daniel, David, Daisy, Darius and Daphne. At five children, the Elders had quipped that Reverend Bread had his own basketball team. Now the question was if the Reverend was trying for a baseball or football team.
The physical demands of seven children prevented Alva Bread from becoming as strong a member of the community as she, or the Ladies Auxillary, would have liked. The Ladies had been without an “official” leader since Sara Hawker had passed, and they were excited at the prospect of having a young woman throw her back into the many projects the Ladies Auxillary found themselves running. Alva tried to step into her role, but the logistics of managing seven children was more than she could handle. Fortunately, the family did most of their shopping at the Hawker General Store, but, when a trip to the Walmart in Blairsville was required, special arrangements had to be made. Usually, two baby sitters were required, and that was if Alva carried the baby with her.
The Elders had arranged for the family to have the use of a nine passenger van, in addition to the four wheel drive vehicle provided for in the original contract. The grocery stipend at the Hawker General Store was supplemented by various members of the congregation bringing fresh fruits and vegetables in season, and canned goods in the Winter. The Reverend’s salary had been renegotiated to include a percentage of the collections, and the extra money was used to keep the family clothed in a manner befitting their station in the community.
Any issue with the rectory was handled swiftly and promptly. When the old washing machine broke down, the Elders replaced it and the dryer with models of an industrial grade. As the older children grew, bunk beds were provided to give each child their own bed. Slowly the house was being upgraded, inside and out, to provide a modern environment for a young growing family. The next project scheduled was to enclose the back porch into a family room so that Alva could watch the children as she prepared meals in the kitchen.
All in all, things were going very well for the Bread family. They were well liked and well cared for. Alva had returned to her beloved mountains, and Reverend Dale had adapted to his new environment like a chameleon to a new color. There was the occasional rumor, the hint of the possibility of an impropriety, but nothing the Elders could ever pin down. All in all, things were going very well.