The sunlight broke through the stained window glass and washed over the congregation. Reverend Elton Mills shone before the red-green glass as his hand rose high above his head. Those of the congregation that could rose slowly, raising their own hands above their hands. Reverend Mills rolled himself to the middle of a carpeted platform and gripped a microphone stand. He struggled with the stand’s adjustment for a few moments, causing the microphone to knock and whine.
Jessy Phillips scurried over to aid the Reverend and adjusted it with ease, though he had three less fingers than Reverend Mills. The old man placed a wrinkled hand on the younger man’s arm, winking his single, good eye.
“God bless him.” Reverend Mills announced into the microphone and there were random hoots of amen for Jessy.
“Wish I didn’t have to mess with these things.” Reverend Mills began with Jessy returned to his seat.
“There was a time when I could put something like this…” He said, waving the microphone around from everyone to see. “…to shame. I had a booming voice like thunder, once upon a time.” Some old women cackled their agreement. There was another round of hooting amen.
“Today, we ain’t talking about ‘Once upon a time’ though. Congregation, we’re here to somebody into our fold. A lovely girl who yall are going to love dearly. Luke. Bobby. Can you gather Crystal.” Luke Allen and his younger brother, Bobby Allen rose from their seats closest to the back exit. Mama Mills started up the pipe organ, applying wait pressure on the keys and weaving the music beneath her husband’s sermon.
“It warms my heart like nothing else when a young person is shown the light. Is saved from the darkness. This world we live in. I shutter at it. Young people today, they are so utterly lost. Amen?” The congregation answered Amen in unison.
“Reverend Mills, don’t take this poison from my lips. It is so very sweet. Amen?” The congregation answered again, louder this time.
“Reverend Mills, don’t take this yoke from my back. It’s garnished with jewels and gold. It is beautiful. Amen?” The congregation called back and their combined voices made the air shutter.
“Reverend Mills. Don’t make them stop lacing my back. It makes my cum, though it makes my bleed.” He didn’t ask for an amen and the congregation remained silent.
“I get passionate about it because, as you know, I was lost along with them once upon a time.”
“And I was lost, too!”
“ I was lost, too!” People stood in the pews and called to the Reverend as if he’d asked for it.
“Ain’t nobody perfect. Near all of us were lost in sin at one time, but now we’re here. Nobody’s perfect but God and God…” The Reverend paused for a moment, attempting to summon something, but soon decided that he couldn’t
“And God said, if thy right hand should offend him, thou would do better to enter his kingdom minus one hand than go on to hell with the two.” There were cries of amen and applause.
“Strong Jessy Phillips. Good a man as any there ever was. Jessy came to this fold with his full ten fingers and he’s got the most of all of us.”
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