My rear was numb and asleep from sitting on a folding metal chair, one of the most effective devices for inflicting cruel torture on the masses. Pain shot down my right leg as spasms of discomfort tweaked my back, the left calf throbbing from a newly inflated varicose vein.
Dressed in a Hawaiian shirt so loud even Florida retires would it call it obnoxious, matched with a pair of hot pink Bermuda shorts, and red flip-flops on my purple-cold feet, every hair on my body stood at attention, a follicle army attempting to battle the frigid attack of excessive air conditioning. Every square millimeter of my skin was goose pimply, the goose pimples growing into ostrich-sized bumps. Shivering in my chair, I frantically tried to rub a hint of feeling or warmth back into the extremities. Failing in the attempt, I wrapped my arms around the upper torso, rolling my body into a hedgehog ball hoping to retain a hint of body heat.
Laying on the narrow table in front of me sat a large stack of booklets towering a foot high. Each pamphlet was marked “Today’s Business.” On the cover of the top booklet was the day’s schedule. No breaks were planned, only a long list of task forces, committees and commissions eager to present their vitally important business and resolutions for the delegates’ consideration. The committee with the largest time-slot was the B.R.T.F.F.D.S.R.A.C.G.R., the Blue Ribbon Task Force For Diocesan Structural Reform And Church Government Reorganization.
Thousands of delegates surrounded me. Whenever one shifted on their painful metal pedestal, or pushed it out to stand and speak at one of the microphones scattered round the hall, there arose a hellacious squeal of naked steel scratching across the concrete floor, the screeches similar to fingernails scraping across a blackboard, the sound piercing my head like poison darts going through one’s skull, the sound multiplied by bouncing off bare walls and a corrugated steel roof.
The hall’s only illumination radiated dimly from overhead gymnasium light fixtures, many having burnt out bulbs, giving the hall a dark rock-concert ambiance, making me feel as though Ozzy Osborne might at any moment jump from the wings and bite the head off of a bat. But in place of aging rock and roll hell-raisers, on the dais sat a long line of officials wearing dark and dower suits, clerical collars wrapped tightly around their necks.
The Convention Chairman stood at the podium and said, “Please turn to page 1089 of ‘Today’s Business, Saturday, Appendix 4’. We will be considering ‘Resolution 8.05.01F Guidelines for Communion Wine.’ To save time, we will dispense with reading the numerous ‘whereas’ and call upon the illustrious Chairman of our Angels Dancing Upon The Head Of A Pin Committee, Rev. Dr. D. K. Root, to read the resolution’s ‘resolved’.
Dr. Root rose to the microphone wearing a stylish purple shirt made of silk, crowned with a white clerical collar, and wrapped in an expensive but dated morning suit. He had a distinguished appearance, possessing silver hair and a dignified manner. His eyes were piercing pale blue, reminding me of Rasputin’s, but framed by round wire-frame glasses. As he began to speak, his booming and deep voice reverberated through the hall. Enunciating each word in a slow, kind and soothing meter he read,
“Resolved: Wine shall be the only drink used for communion. To offer grape juice in place of wine is a terrible sin. Two-thousand years ago, there was no such thing as grape juice, so only wine shall be offered at communion. To do otherwise is heresy. Any clergy holding to such apostasy shall be removed from the roster of ordained ministers.
“Resolved: Red wine shall be the only form of wine used for communion. White wine did not exist two-thousand years ago. To do otherwise is heresy. Any clergy holding to such apostasy shall be removed from the roster of acceptable ministers.
“Resolved: Only the common cup shall be offered for communion. Plastic cups did not exist two-thousand years ago. To offer plastic cups in communion is heresy. Any clergy holding to such apostasy shall be removed from the roster of acceptable ministers.
“Resolved: Anyone associating with persons who practice the above abominations is the devil in our midst and must be shunned. Furthermore, anyone not shunning those who should be shunned is a heretic, and shall be disciplined accordingly.”
Dr. Root concluded by saying, “Rev. Chairman the committee moves this resolution for the convention’s consideration.”
Rev. Chairman said, “The resolution is now open for debate. If you would like to speak for or against this resolution, please proceed to one of the microphones.”
A sea of clerical collars rose in unison creating a cacophony of steel scrapping across concrete. Long lines formed at the microphones strategically stationed around the hall. Most clergy spoke in stanch support of the resolution, offering lengthy speeches while watching themselves adoringly on the large video screens that projected each speaker’s stately visage to the entire assembly, while their theatrically trained voices echoed throughout the hall.
Following debate, amendments were proposed, and amendments to the amendments of the amendments, each slight change in wording requiring its own additional debate.
One delegate stood to make a motion, “I move that the word ‘the’ in the next to the last sentence of the resolution be changed to ‘a’. There is only one big devil, even though there are many little demons. We could change the word ‘devil’ to ‘demon,’ but I firmly believe that the most pleasing alternative is to change the ‘the’ to an ‘a’. So, the text would read ‘anyone allowing such things is a devil’, rather than ‘the devil’”. This was the only amendment to pass the assembly.
A final vote was held on the original resolution, the “the” replacing an “a”. The resolution was then approved by a large majority, the entire proceeding lasting a mere three hours.
Searching my thoughts, I could not remember my arrival at the convention. Concerned I might be experiencing a stroke or some other medical condition resulting in memory loss, I stood from my seat to speak with one of the attendants. Explaining my concern, I asked if she might be able to help.
“Certainly I can help, Mr. Smith. Surely, you recall how you came here. Last night, you had too much to drink. Casting caution to the wind, you insisted on driving home, running your car headlong into a large oak tree. Mr. Smith, this is hell.”
Contemplating her words, the memory of the night before foggily came back into my consciousness. I said to the attendant, “Yes, the memories of last night are coming back to me now. It does make sense that this is hell. But if this is the Lower Abyss, why are all these pastors here; and why are they having such a good time?”
“Oh, that’s quite simple, Mr. Smith. To you this is hell, but to them it’s heavenly bliss.”
2013 © Copyright Daniel R. Molyneux