*Though this is definitely outside of what I normally write, I’ve decided to publish a novella entitled “The Church.” From Nov. 30 to Dec. 15, I will be publishing the work of fiction in 15 parts. Each day, I will publish a part of the story of Christian and his quest to plant the largest progressive church in the world. I will publish the entire work at the end. Today, I’m publishing PART 6 entitled “THE DETAILS” Enjoy!
The lights danced as the music pulled us deeper into worship. Hundreds and hundreds of people raised their hands and sang love songs to God. I did too. I still couldn’t believe that God brought me to this moment. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that anything like this was possible. How was I leading one of the largest progressive churches in Jackson? How? Occasionally, pastors need to stop and smell the roses. With a guest preacher filling in for me, I decided that today was my day. When Charlotte started to masterfully break down The Beatitudes, I checked out and let my mind wander a bit. The last few months at The Church at Swinging Dick’s were not for the faint of heart or head.
Not long after we started meeting at Swinging Dick’s, we hired a guitarist named Tim. This young man was the prettiest of pretty boys. Coming out of the Church of Christ, Tim was interested in experimentation. Often, this cat came to us straight from the bathhouse. As he ran in tardy, I didn’t really know what was dripping off him. In the midst of it all, I tried to be as understanding as possible. There was a time when I was interested in experimentation. That was before I got saved and found the Lord. Regardless, I’m sure you can imagine how all the folks at church took to Tim. That brother had boyfriend after boyfriend after boyfriend. The folks at our church were all over him. On multiple occasions, I pulled Tim aside and told him to tone it down. He didn’t know how. By the time everything blew up, Tim was dating two men in the church and they were starting to get jealous. One was our video technician named West and the other was our worship drummer named Steve. That Sunday morning, I was getting ready to preach when West projected a video on the screen of him giving oral sex to Tim. I guess this was intended to intimidate Steve once and for all. We got the video turned off and I managed to preach a lousy sermon on grace. When it was all over, I went to Tim and said, “I’m sorry but you can’t play in the band once your dick has been exposed in worship.” West left quickly. I haven’t seen him since. Oddly enough, our church grew when people heard we played a pornographic video in church. The Lord works in mysterious ways. Pretty boys don’t make the best church musicians.
Amy was a runaway living on the streets of BoysTown. I met her late one night while out walking the streets trying to hear a word from God. When she called out to me, I almost didn’t answer. I was in another world. However, I was trying to get better about not being so heavenly minded that I was of no earthly good. Stopping to talk, Amy told me her story. To be honest, there were details that I wish she’d left out. Nevertheless, I heard about how the abuse, the drugs and the relationships kept taking and taking from her. Touched, I invited Amy to live with me. When she declared that she had a deep desire to be a minister, I made Amy the first intern at The Church at Swinging Dick’s. Everything went well for a time, then some of Amy’s old destructive habits resurfaced. Returning home early one night, I found Amy having sex with a young teenager. Though every part of me resisted, I had to call the police. Thinking back to my childhood, I wished someone had called to help me. Now, I minister to Amy in jail. We pray that she will only get probation when she goes to trial. Thankfully, Amy repented and is seeking help. Though I was just trying to do some good in the world, I didn’t practice proper boundaries.
People don’t know a damn thing about money. In those early months, we went through three treasurers quick. Suzanne was stuffing money into her bra. Luther was depositing money into his own account. Chris was putting money in his shoe. Money was going everywhere except to the church. Against my better judgment, we decided not to press charges against any of them. I tried to keep up with it for a time. How in the hell is someone with no background in accounting supposed to do all this shit? I decided to hire a permanent accountant. Money is always an important detail. Thankfully when I got the mechanics and processes right, we started rolling. I love money.
When I refocused on Charlotte, I began to realize that something was bothering her. She repeated her lines about The Beatitudes over and over. Looking out into the audience, I realized that Bob was in the audience with a gun on his hip. Earlier, I’d told her the story and asked her to be on the lookout. Though it is clearly posted that we don’t allow guns, Bob was here to prove a point. I motioned for Charlotte to keep going. When I confronted Bob and asked him to leave, he pulled his gun and pointed it at me. Pandemonium broke out. Then, Bob squeezed off two shots. I dropped to the floor. Professor Price fell right next to me. Despite my pleas, Bob put the gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger. I will never forget the sight of his head exploding. Leaning back, I could see that Professor Price was in trouble. “Hold on! This is not the end. Hold on! I love you.” Looking up, Professor Price managed to mutter, “I love you too.” Unfortunately, the bullet hit her heart and she bled out in my arms. I saw the life go out of her old dinosaur eyes. When the paramedics arrived, I realized that I’d been shot in the arm. For days, I was so depressed that I didn’t know if I could keep going. After much prayer, I decided to push forward. I knew that was what Professor Price would’ve wanted. The media swarmed me when I was released from the hospital. Everyone wanted to know one thing, “Are you going to keep The Church at Swinging Dick’s open?” I shouted out to the microphones as loud as I could, “God called me to plant a church and by God that’s exactly what I’m going to do.” The following Sunday, half the city greeted us for worship.