Good morning, y’all. Well as far as sit ins goes, Woolworths has nothing to worry about. It was a step in the right direction, though. Somebody in Congress has to do something besides throw their hands up in the air and say we’re powerless to make a change. My goodness, we overturned prohibition, which was a law close to the hearts and minds of all of the right wing religious nuts of the day. I guess it’s easier to give access than to take it away; particularly when there’s a huge industry behind the access movement.
Speaking of access brings us back to our retelling of the history of the Little Church in the Valley. It is the Sunday following the Summer Revival 2010. Reverend Daniel is standing at the pulpit waiting for the choir to finish the Gathering Hymn. Reverend Daniel listened with pride to the sound of his son’s deep bass voice emphasizing the lyrics. Immediately after the choir sang the verse, “Love lifted me”, Bubba would chime in with, “But me”, giving the song a deeper meaning than the songwriters had envisioned.
“Love lifted me! (but me) Love lifted me! (but me)
When nothing else could help,
Love lifted me. (but me)
Love lifted me! (but me) Love lifted me! (but me)
When nothing else could help
Love lifted me. (but me)
The choir sat, and Reverend Daniel looked out over a two thirds filled auditorium. It was a very good turnout, with quite a few new faces. The Reverend cleared his throat, and in a voice that bespoke strongly of his cigarette habit, he addressed the congregation.
“Friends, we have come to a fork in the road, and I will not be leading you on the next part of the journey.” “It has been my pleasure, my honor, to minister to the congregation here for nearly fifty years.” “Forty-six years to be exact, but only me and a couple of the Elders can verify my attendance.” “And, Granny Waller, of course.” The Reverend smiled at the church’s oldest member who sat front row center.
“We’ve seen a lot of beginnings, and sadly, a lot of endings.” “But we know that those endings are just temporary.” “We know that we will all be joined together in God’s glorious kingdom again, one day, bye and bye.” The Reverend paused for a sip of water before continuing.
“The beginnings have been much more joyous.” “A new baby, a new couple committing to each other in the bonds of matrimony, a sinner lost to the evils of this world dedicating their lives to Jesus”. “Yes, the beginnings have been joyous, and now we are about to embark on another new beginning.” “We are, I am, turning over the spiritual leadership of this church to a remarkable young man, who, I think, possesses the qualities that will enable this church to prosper for many years to come.” “Dale will you come up here a second?”
Reverend Daniel moves back from the pulpit to allow the new pastor to slide beside him. “Reverend Dale E. Bread comes to us by way of Homosassa Springs, Florida, where he’s been pastor for a few years.” “He is a graduate of my old alma mater, ‘The Pentecostal Theological Seminary’ over in Cleveland.” “Go fighting Seraphims!” The exertion of the cheer for his alma mater causes Reverend Daniel a catch in his throat. The old Reverend choked back a cough as he turned to the new minister. “Would you like to say a few words, Dale?”
Reverend Bread moved to the center of the pulpit and looked out over the congregation. “Just let me say, I feel truly blessed to be standing before you today.” “If I had my choices of all of the churches in America, I don’t know that I could have picked one better than ‘The Little Church in the Valley’. “The tradition of the Hawker family, the closeness of the community, the beauty of the land and the people are beyond expression, so, I’ll quit trying.” “I would like to introduce my family though.” “Alva will you come on up here?”
From the front row, a young woman holding the hand of a toddler, while nestling a child of about one-year’s-old against her very pregnant stomach, waddled up the steps of the stage to stand beside her husband.
“This is my wife Alva, my son Devin, my baby Dahlia, and ‘to be determined'”, Reverend Dale said as he grinned and patted his wife’s stomach.
“Alva is actually from Helen, Georgia, and she can’t wait to get back to the mountains again.”
Reverend Daniel cleared his throat to indicate to the new reverend that the introductions were over and that it was time to get back to the service. As the congregation watched the new minister assist his young family back to their pew, few people noticed Crystal Leer leaving the church.
Reverend Cheatum noticed, and he followed her out into the parking lot. “Ms. Leer, Ms. Leer”, the Elder called until the young woman turned to face him. Crystal Leer was biting back hard on her lower lip and the tears were welling up in her eyes. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that Ms. Leer had done the calculation, and that four, or three and a half, didn’t add up to two. Reverend Cheatum stood for a second before saying, “I don’t know what to say.”
“Ain’t nothing to say”, Crystal said as she wiped at her eyes. “I’m foolish, and there ain’t nobody to blame but me.” “Most people learn from their mistakes, most people but me.”
“Is there anything I can do?” the Elder asked cautiously.
“Give me a good reference, if it every comes up.” Crystal replied. “I don’t know if it will, I’m thinking about getting out of this revival business.” “Too many false prophets.” She said as she allowed herself a smile. “Oh, and watch your new preacher”, she added, “He’s got more charm than scruples, and that’s a deadly combination, as you know, in a preacher.”
Ms. Lite stuck out her hand to the Elder and said, “This time it is goodbye, sir, thank you for your hospitality.” The Elder and the secretary/assistant shook hands there in the parking lot. Crystal Leer climbed into one of Hap Johnstone’s Cadillac Escalades, and drove away. Never to return to the Little Church in the Valley.
Elder Cheatum returned to his seat in the little church just in time to hear Reverend Daniel deliver the news to the faithful that this was a “collection free” Sunday. A murmur of agreement passed like a wave through the audience, and it was easy to see that Reverend Daniel was leaving with positive vibes.
At the Testament of Faith, everyone that could, came forward to pass the snakes back and forth with the two reverends. The Elders joined in, and Bubba came down from the choir. While Bubba was wildly demonstrative in his dance, Granny Waller used her walker to stabilize herself as she handled the water moccasin known as “Chloe”.
After about fifteen minutes of revelry, the snakes were placed back in their boxes and Reverend Daniel made the altar call. Thirteen souls, a baker’s dozen, came forward that day to devote their lives to Jesus Christ and the Little Church in the Valley. The numerologists in attendance didn’t offer any misgivings about the “unlucky” number. There were still a few of the Happy Dalers in the audience that believed in the mystical relationship between numbers and events. If the old hippies saw the number thirteen as a foreshadowing to problems, they held their peace. There was far too much joy to celebrate. Nobody wanted to end Reverend Daniel’s last sermon on a bummer.