Good morning, y’all. The news out of California is disturbing on a couple of levels. First off, the police appear to have killed an unarmed teenager for no apparent reason. It seems that the teen had decided that suicide by cop was the way to go, and he was able to find police that were willing to make his wish come true. In an unrelated incident, a robot cop ran over a child at a San Francisco mall. I guess if the police are not going to give in to human reasoning and compassion, robots will work just as well. They just need to be taught to not roll over toddlers.
Speaking of compassion brings us to the retelling of the history of The Full Gospel Original Church of God. Wednesday Night Prayer meeting was more heavily attended than ever before. About half of the worshipers were new to the Elders. As the Elders collected in the office for their weekly board meeting, Elder Cheatum commented, “Wow, where did that crowd come from?”
“I don’t know”, Elder Wiley said, “but if they keep coming, we ought to pass the plate.” “Who knows, we might have opened up another revenue stream.”
“Well you know the old-timers ain’t going to go for that,” said Elder Diggum, “but it is an interesting thought.” “These new comers don’t know what to expect.”
“Yeah, we didn’t do a very good job of informing the public, about anything”, said Elder Cheatum.
“Well, excuse my impertinence, but I think we messed up for sure”, said Mulva as she pushed a box of envelopes towards the middle of the table. “Channel 99 brought these out today, it’s mostly donations”, she said. “There’s some prayer requests, but it’s mostly donations.” “They’re addressed to the “Church Show”, or the “Lady Preacher”, Mulva continued, “It doesn’t seem like we even got our name out there.”
“Yes, we really bungled this one from a marketing point of view”, Elder Cheatum said, “I guess we’re lucky that folks know they can’t receive blessings without a sacrifice on their part,” he said as he separated checks from the envelopes. “Let’s be sure to add these people to our mailing database before you deposit the checks, ok?” The Elder asked looking at Mulva.
“Of course,” Mulva replied.
“It looks like there’s about forty five hundred dollars here”, Elder Cheatum said as he handed the checks to the secretary/treasurer.
“Barry, what were you thinking?” The Elder said as he turned to Elder Diggum. “How could you let the largest opportunity to reach a mass market escape us?”
“Wait, wait, wait,” Elder Diggum said, “we may have missed a little on this go around, but the folks at Channel 99 are telling callers who and where we are.” “Also, Channel 99 wants us to commit to regular telecasts.” “They’d like to broadcast through the end of the year, so, that’s at least eight more telecasts.”
Elder Cheatum raised one eyebrow and said, “Well, that’s different. “You’re forgiven, maybe.”
“I’m guessing we won’t get a cut of the station’s commercial sales, unless we can get our own sponsor.” Elder Wiley said. “Barry, you and I can work on that angle, while Buster explores whatever other revenue streams might be available from our telecasts.
“Sounds good”, said Elder Cheatum, “Anybody have anything else?”
“Well, I feel compelled to mention Alva Bread and her little ones.” Mulva said. “The Ladies Auxillary has been very helpful with fixing meals and babysitting.” ” I was able to take Alva to Walmart today to get some staples and to buy the little ones winter clothes.” “It’s just a shame how ill prepared Reverend Dale has left his family.” “He has not come around, by the way.”
“Well, you and the Ladies Auxillary are saints, and you can tell them I said so, ” Elder Cheatum said.
“Here, here”, replied Elders Wiley and Diggum in unison.
“Is there any further business?” Elder Cheatum asked.
There was none, and the board got up to leave. As the board walked out into the empty sanctuary, Elder Cheatum paused dead center of the church.
“Look around”, he said as he waved his arms about to indicate the expanse. “We have doubled our size in just a few months.” “We have been in this church for one hundred and thirteen years, and until recently, it has served our needs adequately.” “Now we’ve got people from three states coming to share our message.” “I don’t know about you, but I feel something Divine is happening.”
“Praise God”, was uttered by the other three board members.
“Praise God” repeated Elder Cheatum.
Minutes before the Sunday service began, Jed Dye sought out Elder Cheatum to get his approval for the signoff for the telecast. As the Elder strained to watch the visual on the producer’s iPhone, he could tell that a lot of thought had gone into the production. This week’s telecast would end with a full minute of text over the visual of the Reverend Helen Handbasket handling some of the smaller serpents. The fade to black was an advertising winner. The camera was at a low angle and captured the lights shining through the Reverend Helen Handbasket’s flowing red hair. The shot captured enough of the snakes to be interesting, but not scary. The text message was simple:
“If you have been touched by this service of The Full Gospel Original Church of God, help us continue our outreach to the people in our area by contributing whatever you can afford to:
The Full Gospel Original Church of God
P.O. Box 999
Nunsuch, Ga. 30524 “
“Marketing genius”, thought Elder Cheatum, “ ‘Whatever you can afford’ is so open-ended and yet non-invasive.” “It’s bound to bring big rewards.”
As the opening notes of the gathering hymn pealed through the new audio system, the Elder squeezed into his favorite spot in the last row. As he glanced to the left and the right, he could see that every seat in the “additions” was filled. The auditorium was again packed to the rafters.Looking out over the congregation, he became aware that the jockeying for seats was becoming more serious.
It appeared, that some of the original members of the church were less than pleased with the new found popularity of their church. The older members were placing purses and Bibles next to themselves to provide an extra buffer between themselves and the newcomers. Members of the “amen corner” were finding they were having to arrive earlier to services to claim their “rightful” places in the pew. There had even been the reported rumor that the newcomers were choosing their seats by virtue of their likelihood of being shown on TV.
“Well, I guess every silvery lining has a cloud”, the Elder thought to himself. “I don’t know how to fix this other than to put ‘reserved’ signs on the pews”, he thought, “and I don’t want to do that.” “I don’t want to have the newcomers to have any reason to continue their search for religious fulfillment at another church.”
Reverend Helena Handbasket was graced in beige robes this Sunday that were very favorable to her coloring. The Reverend was still bouncing back and forth between the pulpit and the choir as she led the choir in every hymn. Elder Cheatum could sense that the interruptions were breaking the Reverend’s flow, and he resolved to look into the hiring of a replacement choir director. The bouncing back and forth also made it hard for the camera crew to keep up with her movements. After all, she was the show, and the camera needed to be on her every second.
The Elder was continuing his cogitations on seating arrangements as he passed the collection plate from row to row. No easy solution jumped out at him. Finally he resolved that it would just have to be first come first served, even if some of the older members felt slighted. “If it bugs them enough, they’ll get up earlier”, the Elder reasoned.
The balance of the service went like a well oiled clock. Elder Cheatum noticed that the people that remained seated during the altar call were still swaying to the music as if they were up front taking part themselves. Reverend Handbasket had a powerful hold over her audience.
“Now, how do we maintain our hold on her?” Thought Elder Cheatum as he took his spot at the front door at the end of the service.