Good morning, y’all. With all of the mean despicable things being said on the campaign trail, all of the mean allegations back and forth in the recent shootings, and all of the acrimony caused by Brexit, I’d like to take today’s discussion to a higher level. The act of legalizing recreational marijuana is underway in California. Currently, California’s medical marijuana industry is worth about $2.7 billion dollars. Estimates are that the revenue will double when and if recreational use is permitted. I guess you could say the stakes couldn’t get any higher.
Speaking of raising the stakes brings us to the retelling of the history of The Full Gospel Original Church of God. The meeting with the producer from Channel 99 in Blairsville went swimmingly. As handshakes went all around the table at the Saw Mill Place, discussions about people in common filled the air. Truth was, there were very few families that the partners Wiley, Diggum and Cheatum hadn’t encountered in the area. The producer, Jebediah Dye was from an old family that was well known to the trio of Elders. The Elders had handled the funeral arrangements for three or four of Jed’s kinfolk.
Satisfied that the young producer meant no malice, and that the telecast would be handled with the utmost of respect and dignity, the Elders agreed to allow the TV station the access to the auditorium necessary to produce the television show. On Saturday the church was a beehive of activity as the workers were completing the attachment of the new “wing” to the church, and the TV crew was positioning it’s equipment for optimum coverage. Reverend Helena Handbasket was requested to come over to the church from the rectory to do a sound check. The new microphones and audio equipment pushed the Reverend’s voice into every nook and cranny of the church with perfect clarity.
“I guess I’m going to need to be really careful about keeping my thoughts to myself now”, the Reverend said as she heard the sound of her voice rebounding from the speakers. The sound engineer laughed and told the Reverend, “it wouldn’t seem so bad once the church was filled with crying babies and coughing old timers.” The Reverend responded that she “hoped not”, and then headed back to the rectory to prepared for the biggest day of her life. By six o’clock that evening, the stage was literally set.
Elder Cheatum arrived at The Full Gospel Original Church of God that Sunday morning about 9AM. He had not missed Sunday School for as long he could remember. He always appreciated the close fellowship of the Sunday School class before the full scale worship service in the main sanctuary. When he entered the sanctuary at 10:15, the camera crews were already in place. In fact, a large number of people were already in place. The pews of the main sanctuary were almost completely filled and the trailer additions were filling up. As he walked to the front door of the church to greet the later arrivals, the Elder noticed that some of the traditional seating arrangements had been usurped by new worshipers. “This is going to be a problem”, he thought and made a mental note to bring it up at the next board meeting, if someone else hadn’t forced the issue before then.
At the first notes of the gathering hymn, the Elder went inside the church and wedged his body into his favorite seat in the last row. His mental note to discuss seating was reinforced by the discomfort of sitting tightly next to someone he had never seen before. Fortunately, the Elder’s mind was distracted from his physical discomfort when the Reverend Helena Handbasket appeared on the stage. She was wearing long flowing, kelly green robes. The lights added to the sanctuary to improve the quality of the picture being telecast over the airwaves had the additional benefit of creating a halo like effect to the Reverend’s hair. The lights playing off of the Reverend’s hair and shiny robes gave the Reverend a very positive aura.
Elder Cheatum had no idea how things looked in TV land, but the audience in the sanctuary were awestruck. A quick glance to the trailer additions confirmed that the followers there were not suffering because of a lack of direct line of sight. The audio was perfect. Even if the follower was watching a big screen TV to get the best view of the Reverend, her voice was being carried with perfect amplification. Even the choir sounded better. Bubba Hawker seemed to be singing in a new harmony that gave the choir a richer, fuller sound.
From where Elder Cheatum sat, it was a concert-like experience worthy of some of the mega-churches in Atlanta. “I hope Jed Dye is getting what he wanted from this, because it’s certainly more than I could have hoped for,” the Elder thought to himself. The Elder was yanked from his revelry of how far the little church had come by the collection call. He moved to the front of the church with the other Elders, plate in hand. In addition to his two old friends, two deacons had been “ordained” as “Elders in training”, and were handling the collections in the additions. The “Elders in training” collections would be monitored separately for a few months until the Elders were comfortable that all of the offerings were making their way back to the church office. It was sad to contemplate, but churches were not immune to thievery.
As he squeezed back into his seat, Elder Cheatum watched the camera crew pick up hand held cameras anticipating the Testament of Faith and altar call. They worked closer than Elder Cheatum would have preferred, but, they too may have been caught up in the spell that Reverend Helena was casting. She was flawless. Her glossolalia was like the voices of angels. The snakes seemed hypnotized by the sound of her voice and her soft touch. As she placed the last serpent in the box, the choir began to sing “Love Lifted Me”, and the aisles began to fill with people touched by the service. Elder Cheatum moved to his position at the front door to wish the exiting worshipers well on their way. He would have preferred to stay inside of the sanctuary to see what happened next, but duty called. Someone else would give “the lost souls count” at Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting.
The Elder was buoyed by the entire service. “So, this is what ‘spirit filled’ means” , he thought.