Good morning, y’all. Happy to say that Mickey Mouse is more responsive to the needs of his constituents than Congress. Of course Congress is much more insulated from their customer base than Disney World. While workers at Disney are putting up signs and fences to protect their guests from a known menace, Congress is voting down legislation proposing to keep known menaces from getting guns. Makes you wonder which entity is actually running Fantasyland doesn’t it?
Speaking of Fantasyland brings us back to the retelling of the history of the Little Church in the Valley. It is the end of day five of Summer Revival 2010. Hap Johnstone had made it until the end of his sermon before losing it and going crazy as an outhouse rat. Elder Cheatum has returned to the rectory and put on a pot of coffee while he awaits the arrival of the other committee members.
As the committee members arrive, they all grab a cup of coffee before sitting down around the kitchen table. All eyes are on Elder Cheatum, who takes a deep breath and begins. “Hap’s done”, the Elder began, “He may be done forever, I don’t know.” “He was babbling like a street corner preacher when they strapped him into the ambulance.” “I see some long term in-patient care ahead of him, but, I’ve been surprised before.” “They’ve got some wonder drugs now that can make a homicidal, suicidal maniac sit quietly, but that ain’t what you need in a preacher.” The Elder placed his cup back on the coaster. “Diagnosis aside, he’s done for us.” “Any thoughts?”
All of the committee started to speak at once, but deferred to Reverend Daniel. “Well, we tried to keep him going.” “We gave him a lot of latitude to do the job.” Reverend Daniel took a sip of his coffee before continuing, “You gotta admit, that doctor’s outfit was pretty creative.” “It’s just a shame, a darn shame.” “Well, what do you fellas think?”
Elder Diggum was next to grab the floor. “I think we need to decide whether we’ve got a future minister in the group we’ve collected, or if we try again at the Winter Revival.” “I’ve got my opinion, but this is something we all should be firmly committed to.” “I think the Reverend Bread is a keeper, but I’m open to hearing opposing thoughts.”
Elder Wiley leaned forward on his elbows as if to draw the group closer together in a more conspiratorial mood. “I agree about Reverend Bread.” “If you could get past his voice, Reverend Rhoades is equally as good, I think.” “But, you can’t get past that voice.” “When I think about hearing that caterwauling three times a week until the good Lord takes me, well, I might start praying for an early release from this earthly plane.” Elder Wiley is grinning, but the other committee members get his point.
Elder Wiley continues, “You know I feel like I’m channeling Yogi Berra here, but this is ‘dejavu all over again.'”
“First rule of damage control, assess the damage” “Can we cover tomorrow night? I think we can.”
“Second rule of damage control, limit the damage” “I think announcing the new preacher and giving him center stage tomorrow night will help folks forget about the Right Reverend Hap T. Johnstone.”
“Third rule of damage control, control the message” “If Hap hadn’t started cussing like a sailor on leave we could have just said he was so in the grasp of the Spirit that he couldn’t get back to his preaching.” “Now it looks like he was speaking for the devil himself.” “Thank goodness the Blairsville Times and the Nunsuch News are weekly papers. ” “We’ ll have time to massage the message before they publish again.” “We might get lucky and be able to get an article pulled, who knows?” “We’ll work on that.” “That’s my thoughts, anybody got anything else?”
Mulva Lite had been sitting quietly, barely moving while the men expressed themselves. “I’d just like to say”, Mulva began as the men turned to look at the secretary-treasurer, “that if we were making our decision based strictly on financial considerations, Reverend Bread is the choice.” “I know it’s not supposed to be a consideration, we’re supposed to consider only the spiritual implications of our choice, but this is a really big step for us.” “We’ve been blessed to have the Hawker family minister to us for as long as any of us can remember.” “As crass as it sounds, we can’t afford to bring in a preacher, no matter how spirit-filled he might be, that can’t keep the lights on.” “I’m sorry, that’s just my thoughts.” “I’ll vote for whoever you all think is best.”
Reverend Daniel rose to get the pot of coffee to freshen everyone’s cup. “Thank you, Mulva, your points are well taken.” “If we make the wrong choice now it could effect attracting new membership, and we know we’ve got to have new members.” “Ain’t any of us getting any younger.” “Well, I think my mind is made up, how about you all?” Reverend Daniel said as he looked around the table.
“I think we’re all on the same page” , said Elder Cheatum, “By a show of hands, who is in favor of offering the job of minister to the Little Church in the Valley to Reverend Dale E. Bread?” The vote was unanimous, all five committee members raised their right hands in agreement.
“Now what?” Elder Diggum asked.
“Now we call Reverend Bread and ask him if he can meet with us for a few minutes.” Elder Cheatum replied. “I’ll call him now.”
Mulva Lite starting a fresh pot of coffee brewing, and by the time it was finished, Reverend Bread was knocking on the rectory door. The Reverend was dressed in gym shorts and a T-shirt with the Florida gator emblazoned on the front. As he took his seat around the table, Mulva offered the young preacher a cup of coffee.
“Can’t do coffee after 6PM”, Reverend Bread declined, “If I drink it, I’m up all night. “Thank you very much though.” “Why am I here?” “Is it about Hap?” “How is Hap?” “I heard he had a seizure or something.”
“Well, Hap is done for this revival.” Elder Cheatum replied while cataloging the idea of seizure as an explanation for Hap’s behavior. “That’s part of the reason we wanted to talk to you, we wanted to see if you were interested in headlining in Tent number one tomorrow night?”
“Oh, wow, sure, yes”, replied Reverend Bread, “I’d be honored to stand in for Hap Johnstone.” “Thank you, thank you so much.”
Pleased that the young reverend’s response had been so enthusiastic, Elder Cheatum decided to put all of his cards on the table. “Tell me Dale, what do you think about our little community?” the Elder inquired. “I know we’re not as flashy and glitzy as Homosassa Springs.”
“Well sir, I don’t know how long it’s been since you’ve been to Homosassa Springs, but it must have lost some of its flash and glitter since then.” Reverend Dale gave a big perfect grin as he continued. “I just love it here, to be honest.” “The air is so clean, and the nights are cool, so you can sleep with the windows open.” “And you folks, well, you all are just the best.” “I don’t think I’ve ever ate so good, or so much, in all of my life.” “I mean, I’m sure there’s some warts there somewhere, there always is, but I ain’t seen ’em yet.” Reverend Dale made eye contact with everyone around the table as he spoke which gave each member the impression he was addressing them individually. The charisma was so thick it was tangible.
“I’m glad you said that”, Elder Cheatum said, “We like you too.” “In fact, after much discussion, and even more prayer, we’ve decided to ask you if you would be interested in being our pastor.”
“Would I, oh my goodness, yes!” “It would be a dream come true to follow in the footsteps of the Hawker family.” “They’ve been such pioneers in the Pentecostal movement; I can’t think of a higher honor!” “I’m not even going to ask what it pays, it’s not important.” “Praise the Lord, when do you want me to start?”
“Give as much notice as you need to,” Elder Cheatum replied, “Reverend Daniel is still around, he’ll be able to fill in until you can get free.” “And even some afterwards if you need a vacation day or something.”
“Oh, wow, thank you, thank you, I’m going to call my wife right now.” “She’ll be so happy to get back to the mountains.” Reverend Bread said as he jumped up. “Is there anything else?” “Can I go call her now?”
“Sure, sure, go ahead” “There’s nothing else so important it won’t wait until tomorrow.” Go call your wife.” Elder Cheatum said as Reverend Bread headed for the door.
As Reverend Bread reached for the door handle, he was called back by the voice of Elder Wiley. “One more thing, Reverend Bread, you’re gonna have to lose all of that Gator paraphernalia, you’re in Bulldog country now.”
Reverend Bread looked down at his T-shirt, thought for about a millisecond and gave his best grin. “Yes sir, not a problem.” “Anything else?”
“Nope, that’s it.” “Now go get some rest, tomorrow is going to be a big day.” Elder Wiley said with a grin on his face, satisfied that he had won the biggest challenge of the night.
Reverend Daniel looked about the table to the collected group of parishioners, most of whom were also his lifelong friends. “I’d like to say a prayer at this point and kind of seal our deal with the Lord, if nobody minds.”
Each committee member extended a hand to the person sitting on either side of them, and Reverend Daniel began. “Oh Lord, You are lavish in bestowing all of your gifts, and we give thanks for the favor that you have shown us. We ask that you continue to guide us, protect us, and to shelter us in your embrace. We ask this in the name of our savior Jesus Christ. Amen.”
At the end of the prayer, the committee responded, “Amen”, together. Reverend Daniel stood up and said, “There being no further business, I suggest we try to get a few hours of sleep before we pick it up and do it again.”
The group responded, “Amen”, together again, and headed out into the night for their homes.