Revenge in the Pews
My drive lay stretching on I-20 to get to this Ohatchee Church of Christ in this little, bitty town an hour or so from Birmingham, where I was at that day for my church. The place where I live is midway between Ohatchee and Birmingham. His little speech made me stop at my place for a little preparation. I threw on these old checkered pair of green and white pants. And then one of my prized ruffled shirts…Crimson colored. And to top it all off, I slapped on my forehead, a huge, oversized brown cowboy hat. Now, I was going to saunter inside that church very late, right in the middle of the sermon…I hoped. And then ogle the crowd very strangely and walk very strangely also and plop right down beside my friend and throw my arm around him. That was the plan. And he will wish he never made that comment.
We like to refer to this friend of mine as B.Diddy. B. Diddy was the preacher at my home church in Dothan years ago. He is 33 years old. He was a very dynamic preacher some 3 or 4 years ago. Though, he has left the pulpit. Perhaps becoming burned out? But this I really couldn’t tell you. He belongs to the old school world of preaching maybe not necessarily fire and brimstone but still what would be seen today termed as solid gold proclaiming back when preachers and theologians filled white tents and filled boring commentaries full of very clear, forthright formulas of how to know all one needs to know about God. B. Diddy at a young age inherited this tradition from his father and other preachers of another era. And could shake an audience with his very polished, powerful delivery. He now attends his father’s simple church in his own hometown congregation of Ohatchee Church of Christ.
I got to this church, after churning through a few backroads, noting the shoebox architecture of the building and the cheesy billboard motto for all passerbys to see, who were probably Baptists or Methodists or the Holiness churches from just up the road. The sun wasn’t yet down. I peered through the front entrance before I barged in with my eccentric costume on. I could see B. Diddy’s large head facing the audience. I could hear them all singing, chanting about Beulah land. B. Diddy was leading this small congregation in singing. He was decked out in a tie and a sportsjacket. Embarrassed? There was nothing embarrassing to me about what I was going to do. After all there were probably no people under 50 in there. I was waiting for him to sit down. So I stood outside, propping myself up against the red bricks of the building wondering about the few people that drove by this little highway and what they thought when they saw me. I felt like some birthday telegram performer as though I was going to jump out of a cake or something. Fixing my huge hat over my hair in the glass door, I probably appeared as what a pale Prince would look like if he performed the scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz. After the singing had piped down, I saw B.Diddy walking over to sit down. Now was my moment.
After I crossed the first glass doors into the actual church building, I was into the foyer where the option of 3 doors loomed before me. I saw through the cracks of the middle door that B. Diddy had ambled over to the right side of the auditorium. So it was either through the middle aisle and work my way through a pew getting people to really notice me, or it was the less intrusive way of the far right door closer to where B. Diddy was sitting. I chose, to my dismay, the less rude, more clandestine door. I just wanted to embarrass him a little, not disrupt anything. So I got around to that right door and just as I opened it and was about to enter in and all the stares would begin, I see him jump up from the seat right beside the door and nearly tackle me, pushing us back into the foyer. We both erupted into laughter as we embraced. And our giggles, mine in particularly, started to rise in volume. “Sshhh!” he said. “I knew it. I knew it. I knew the moment I hung up the phone. You were going to get me good.”
All that I could say was, “You know me too well. and Man, and you had to ruin it!”
“Well, you can come in. Just don’t wear the hat.”
He had heard the glass doors shut when I entered and was expecting me at any moment. If I had chosen the other door, I would’ve walked in with cowboy hat before everyone.
I kept my cowboy hat by my side, and the both of us marched into the auditorium. I still got a few stares, though friendly; I was still in my ruffled shirt.
Singing continued. The old swaying swinging. Songs that I couldn’t remember, but probably struck some deep remembrance in my subconscious them being sung when I was a small child. B. Diddy’s father got up and gave the sermon. A nice sermon, simple and congenial with here and there even a rhyme. I think Mr. Dunaway is known all over Alabama for his many rhyming slogans he likes to throw out there.
After most everything was done. B. Diddy got up and introduced me to the entire church. As he was doing so, I thought to get one last stab at him, and before he pointed me out, right at the moment when everyone turns around to glare at the visitor, I lean my head back and pretend as though I am sleeping and then waking up, embarrassed. After commenting on this, B.Diddy asked me to come to the front in my ruffled shirt and checkered pants…that didn’t even match. And he announced to the congregation about my future plans for moving to New Zealand. How I’d live in Russia and made it sound as though I lived in many more countries. He described me to being this fearless and extraordinary apostle, like Paul who goes from shore to shore all for the testimony of the gospel. In short, he made me out to be somebody I wasn’t exactly. Exaggerating things, a bit just like all preachers can do.
Afterwards, the people flocked to me. Asking me about Russia and about this or that. No one commented on my clothes. I really believe that B.Diddy was in part getting me back for my charade. Though, even if he didn’t paint me to be such an extra-ordinary character, I think that they would’ve been just as friendly. I’m always surprised by conservative churches. I think them to be half dead, but then I'm always floored by their hospitality and generosity.