Even as a novice, Howard could pick out the probable problem child, the one who felt compelled to "act out" in order to receive "negative attention" which always trumps "no attention," much the way "hate" trumps "indifference."
In this class, it was one Delbert Stoker, whose dad pastored and ministered Medford's megachurch, Holy Mother of God and Precious Red Blood of Our Risen Savior Full Gospel Church.
Howard once attended Holy Mother of God and Precious Red Blood of Our Risen Savior Full Gospel Church with Chester, one of his more religious abductees.
In a last-ditch effort to keep its doors "swinging open towards the loving arms of Jesus," the church provided four services to choose from.
The first service was at 7:30 a.m. and it catered to "old coots," as they were affectionately called by the Board of Deacons. These geriatric stuffy conventional traditionalists preferred to sing out of hymnals published before or during the Eisenhower presidency; enjoyed dressing up for the occasion as a humble nod to the presence of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; and preferred not to include dance or distracting arm-waving as a part of the service.
The 8:30 a.m. gathering was exclusively for those who enjoyed the gift of glossolalia. Should a non-glossolaliac show up accidentally, he could still worship with the help of an interpreter who, synchronized with the rhythm of the congregation's seemingly arbitrary verbal ejaculations, gracefully danced and swayed on the dais as she rendered Tongues-of-Fire utterances into plain old garden variety Christian language.
The 9:30 service was the most popular of them all. The place was packed with the young and the hip, all come to praise the Maker in whose noisy image they believed themselves to be created.
|Feeling the burn
They imagined the Creator of the Universe as a bud, a mate, a friend, a besty, if you will, who favored highly repetitive songs of praise, each of which was roughly the length of the entire Book of Psalms.
Called "up-to-date-here-and-now" worshipers, they favored lively kinesthetics over kneeling, genuflecting and other outdated gestures, and considered formal dress mere Pharisaical homage to materialism.
Hence the men worshiped in pleated shorts, golf shirts and beach sandals, the women in spaghetti-strapped peasant blouses and shorts that stopped far, far from the knees, generously exposing enough buttocks flesh to reveal to all that "the Son of God came to us in the Flesh, and thus the Flesh is nothing to be ashamed of, nay verily, our bodies, butt cheeks included, are Temples of the Holy Spirit," or something along those lines.
During the with-it service, a shimmering veil covered the pipe organ and the altar was blocked from view by a praise-crazed 14-person band featuring banjos (lead and rhythm), a harmonica, a Jew's harp (an homage to the Old Testament), drums, an electric piano, a kazoo, 12-string guitars, ukuleles, an accordion, a bagpipe, an oboe, a tuba, a tambourine, and an air horn.
When Holy Mother of God and Precious Red Blood of Our Risen Savior Full Gospel Church moved into an abandoned K-Mart building, the congregants happened upon a still functional blue rotator light, similar to the ones atop cop cars.
Previously used by the failed retail giant to signal brief markdowns -- called "blue-light specials" --, the church quickly converted the light to a "Come to Jesus" flasher. When, for example, a sinner heard the Lord call him to His flock and headed toward the altar, a deacon would turn on the spinning blue light to symbolize the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Finally, there was the 11:30 service conducted in French.*
Howard's experience of Holy Mother of God and Precious Red Blood of Our Risen Savior Full Gospel Church's many options for believers weighed heavily on his heart.
There was only one Jesus, as far as he knew. Must He then wear so many hats, must he become all things to all people that he might by all means save some, as St. Paul so eloquently stated in One Corinthians?
Surely there must be a simpler, more unified way.
*Due to Medford's location, obviously