Good morning, y’all. As the scrutiny is drawn from the police shooting innocents in Baton Rouge and Minneapolis, to the fallen officers in Dallas, demonstrations are popping up all over the country. The demonstrators are reminding the media that the reason the Dallas shooter gave for shooting the officers was retaliation for the systematic abuse of blacks at the hands of the police nationwide. Once the Dallas shootings are put behind us, perhaps someone, somewhere, will dive neck deep into the issue and come up with a plan that keeps us all safe.
Speaking of keeping us safe brings us back to the retelling of the Full Gospel Original Church of God. Shortly after the firing of the choir director, Ophelia Bottoms, the skies opened up and deluged the area with rain. The rain fell non-stop in Nunsuch like the floods in the Bible. From Thursday through Sunday service, the rain fell like it would never stop. There was so much water that Reverend Handbasket was asked to mention in her prayers that the area needed a little relief. In her benediction, Reverend Handbasket entreated the Lord to open Heaven for souls, but not to let any more rain pass through.
In point of fact, Reverend Handbasket asked the parishioners to stay back after service to offer up special prayers to the Lord. The Reverend quoted Matthew 18:20,“For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst“, as the rationale to call group attention to the problem. Over forty people stayed behind to offer a special entreaty to the Lord for relief from the floods.
As Elder Cheatum watched from his vantage point in the last row he reflected on the influence the new minister was having on the congregation. To have this many people stay behind and miss part of their NFL experience was amazing. Admittedly, it was for a good cause, the area was flooded, but still, this turnout was a powerful statement of the Reverend’s popularity.
“It seems that the Reverend Handbasket has found a real home at our little church,” Elder Cheatum thought to himself. “The church has been packed to the rafters at every service since she took over, and salvation is at an all time high.” “If the tithing continues to match the attendance, then it won’t be long before our little church will be looking to expand.”
The Elder brought up expansion at the Wednesday morning breakfast at IHOP. As he watched Elder Diggum dig into his Rooty Tooty Fresh ‘N Fruity Pancakes with steak breakfast on the side, the Elder began; “We need to start talking about expansion.” “We’ve got standing room only now and I think we’re turning people away.” “Ideas?”
“Well, this is going to sound crazy, but I can get my hands on a couple of FEMA trailers for next to nothing,” Elder Wiley said. “I think we could open the side of the trailer, and match it up to the side of the church.” “We’d put folding chairs in the main part of the trailer and put in a big screen TV for the folks to watch.” “That’s what those mega-churches do in Atlanta.” “They just add seating room for the congregation to watch the service on TV”.
Elder Diggum stopped his fork mid-swing; and, with a full mouth of food interjected, “My God, are you kidding?” “People are coming all the way from South Georgia, West Tennessee, all over, and we’re going to invite them in to watch the service on TV?” “I never in my wildest nightmares thought I’d see this day.”
“It’s a temporary fix, Barry”, Elder Wiley said. “It’ll cost next to nothing to implement, and we’ll gain sanctuary size and probably a couple of bathrooms.” “That can’t be bad.”
“Think temporary, Barry,” Elder Cheatum said. “I think it could work, and if we can implement the plan as cheap as Alvin says, I say go for it.” “Alvin, why don’t you start a plan in motion, and get two of them while you’re at it.” “We need to ride this pony for as long as we can.”
“While I’ve got the floor”, Elder Cheatum continued, “We need to talk about our star’s remuneration.” “Right now she’s getting paid about 70% of what we paid Dale.” “Now, admittedly, Dale came with a lot of mouths to feed, but his value to the church’s earning power had peaked.” “We don’t know where the ceiling is with Reverend Helena.” “I’ll be able to give some better numbers tonight, or Mulva will, at our board meeting.” “But, I think Reverend Helena has been doubling Dale’s best Sunday ever on a consistent basis.” “Part of it is more butts in the seats, but it’s also the fact that each individual is giving more.”
“We’ll talk some more tonight”, Elder Cheatum said as he reached for the check. “Barry, it’s your turn, here you go.”
“My turn, how do you get that it’s my turn?” Elder Diggum asked as he took the check, “I paid last time.”
“Any time you eat three times as much as me and Alvin put together, it’s your turn.” Elder Cheatum replied as he walked past the cashier and out the door. The three friends reconvened in the parking lot before heading off on their appointed rounds.
The board meeting after Wednesday Night Prayer service was very low key compared to the previous meetings. Mulva Lite related that Reverend Helena Handbasket had indeed been doubling Reverend Dale’s collections. There was so much money in the reserve fund now that the church could invest their interest earnings in a variety of projects without putting a dent in the principle. A mission to Central America was dear to Mulva’s heart. Failing that, an outreach program to the local Hispanic community was another idea put forward by the secretary/treasurer.
“Good ideas, good ideas”, said Elder Cheatum. “Let’s discuss them again after we get this sanctuary project off the ground, ok?” Everyone nodded their head in agreement.
“You’re looking awful flush tonight”, Elder Diggum said to Elder Cheatum, “You having a stroke or something?”
“No, no, thanks for the concern”, Elder Cheatum replied, “I did a little field work today.”
“Field work, what kind of field work?” Elder Wiley inquired.
“Well, I’ve kind of been missing Old Ben, so I thought I’d look to see if I could find him, or one of his cousins.” Elder Cheatum replied. “I know we can wait until the rattlesnake roundup in Folkston to get a replacement.” “We’d also save the little feller from being barbecued, but I thought I’d just do a little walkabout for myself.”
“Well as long as you don’t go all wonkey like Steve Irwin.” Elder Wiley replied.
“Steve Irvin?” asked Mulva.
“Yeah, you know, that Aussie smart aleck that plays with dangerous animals so he can make it look easy for a kid to do,” Elder Wiley replied. “Used to play, I should say”.
Elder Wiley continued on, “Irwin was the most famous snake hunter to ever grace these mountains, if you ask him.” “He came to our area looking for timber rattlers.” “Apparently since he’s faced off with those cobras that immobilize their victims by spitting in their eyes, he thought he’d be interested in facing off with the biggest and baddest snake America has to offer.” “There’s a video of the encounter on Youtube.” “You all should watch it.” “It’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.”
Elder Wiley drew a breath and continued, “If you watch closely, you’ll see that while Irwin is climbing over boulders looking for rattlers, he positions himself so that the cameraman can get Irwin and the snake in the same shot.” “After Irwin puts himself in a squat over two rocks, he realizes that he has squatted directly over another rattler.” “If the rattler strikes, the first thing in the way is Irwin’s family jewels.” “It was lucky for Irwin it was a cold fall day and the snakes were sluggish, otherwise ………”
“I’ll have to check that out,” Elder Cheatum said. “I thought with this being the first sunny day after all of our rain that I’d catch a big boy out sunning himself, but, it wasn’t in the stars today.” “I did get a little sunshine, though, and I’m happy about that.”
“Is there any more business?” Elder Cheatum asked as he stood. Everyone looked at each other and shook their heads no. “Ok then, see you all on Sunday.” Elder Cheatum said.
The board headed off into the night to their respective homes and lives before the call to duty would once again bring them back to the little church in the valley.