*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 7 entitled “THE EXPLOSION” Enjoy!
In those days of grief and recovery, Harvey became my primary source of strength. I didn’t go anywhere that he couldn’t. I never thought I’d love a dog so much. When it came time to return to church for the first time since the shooting, I couldn’t leave him behind. In front of all the cameras, Harvey walked me in. Looking around, I couldn’t believe it. People were everywhere. The building didn’t have room to hold all the support. The walls were covered with people. The bar was covered with people. The seats were covered with people. The balcony was covered with people. The stage was covered with people. It was absolutely insane. People were chanting over and over at the top of their lungs, “Swing-ing Dick’s! Swing-ing Dick’s! Swing-ing Dick’s!” The entire city came out to show their support for The Church at Swinging Dick’s. It was pure pandemonium.
Right before the service started, the Fire Marshall informed us that the space was way beyond capacity. We had to ask hundreds of people to step outside. Thankfully, we were able to quickly erect projectors to show what was going on inside. When I came back in and walked to the front of the church, I was reminded of Professor Price’s last wish. There she sat stuffed on one of the front chairs. The taxidermist did an incredible job of making her look so alive. Throughout our founding, Professor Price told us to stuff her and put her at the front of the church if she died early. I think she wanted a visual representation that she was watching over us. I venerated her. When I was about to walk up the stage to deliver my first sermon since the shooting, I stopped to kneel and pray in front of her. As the cameras snapped and filmed away, I looked into her eyes with tears running out of mine. I felt like we’d resurrected a dinosaur. The longer I looked at her, the more it looked like she was going to speak. When her mouth started moving, I knew I was having a vision. Professor Price declared, “Get on up there and preach. I’ll be here when you get back.” That’s exactly what I did.
Looking out into the sea of people, my eyes locked on one woman in particular. Bob’s surviving widow Monica sat directly in front of the pulpit. A prominent Transgender activist in her own right, Monica desperately tried to get Bob mental help. Nothing seemed to work. After the shooting, she was one of the first people to call me at the hospital. I felt so bad that she’d lost Bob. I knew how much she loved him. Stirred in my spirit, I couldn’t let this moment past. I brought Monica on stage. In the presence of many, I wanted everyone to know that we forgave Bob and would stand by Monica at all costs. The entire room erupted in tears and cheers. I knew God was working some magic.
When I finally started the sermon, I firmly declared, “The Church at Swinging Dick’s is a resurrection community!” Looking straight into the cameras, I shouted to thunderous applause, “We will not be undone by the terror of death!” Then, I hit the gas…
“We won’t let tragedy make us hate nobody. We love Bob. We’re a resurrection people! We won’t be intimidated by violence. We’re too busy preaching peace. We’re a resurrection people! We’re going to be the strongest voice of peace and justice that this city has ever seen. We’re a resurrection people! Hallelujah! We’re a resurrection people! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!! We’re a resurrection people! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!! Hallelujah!!! We’re a resurrection people!”
I collapsed in a hot sweat. Harvey licked me to make sure I was ok. The people wanted more. I didn’t have more. Everyone in the room cheered wildly. One of the young women I’d been mentoring named Anne stood up and went to the microphone, “The power of God that you just felt is available at this church every week. The Church at Swinging Dick’s is God’s gift to Jackson. We thank you for your presence. Let’s go be different in order to make difference!” I was amazed at her courage and tenacity. I knew that our congregation would be seeing more of her.
Multiple folks helped Harvey and I get past the cameras and into the car. I was exhausted. When I got situated, Charlie started to drive me home. “Stop!!!” I forgot something and needed to go back in. I couldn’t leave her. By the time I told Charlie to go ahead, Professor Price was buckled up next to me. After briefly dozing off, I woke up to find Harvey gnawing on her foot. Scolding him, I made Harvey promise to never touch Professor Price again. When I got home, I put Professor Price in the guest bedroom and went to bed. Over the last few days, an explosion had happened and it was more powerful than anything I could’ve ever imagined.