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Unity In Diversity.
Unity Is Diversity.
What a long, strange trip its been!.
 
Three Angels Visit Harrell Grove

      I've been what you might call a dharma bum for most of my forty some-odd years (and odd some of them have been!). I have traveled fairly extensively, though such things are relative of course. I used to know everything, I now know nothing. I used to know nothing, I now know everything!

      I was born and raised in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains of North Georgia, which I left about the time I was old enough.

      Growing up in the Bible Belt you learn from a very early age that religion is both the best and the worst thing on the planet. One of its negative attributes, it seems to me, is its tendency to promote religious and social exclusivity. One of its positive aspects is that if we take it seriously, spirituality can make us stretch our minds in ways that we probably never would have. I've experienced it from many sides.

      At the age of twelve I made my 'alter call' and became a Born-Again Christian. Shortly after that, I began a quest which continues to this day. Allow me to tell you a short story:
       

      Back in 1969, on a sweltering Georgia night, I was attending a Wednesday night prayer meeting at Harrell Grove Missionary Baptist Church. The place was jumping! The old women were waving their hands in the air testifying to anyone within earshot, the men were doing the Holy Ghost Two-Step and I, a newly "saved" twelve year old, sat taking it all in.

      About the time the singing and testifying was winding down and Pastor Hoyt Thomas was approaching his pulpit, something quite out of the ordinary happened.

      The doors from the vestibule swung open, a bit loudly I noted, and standing there, at our mid-week service, were three of the strangest looking young men I'd ever seen in my short-lived life. They had long hair, scraggly beards, and were dressed in clothing such as I would have imagined gypsies in.

      They paused for a moment as silence descended over the ethnocentric congregation, and people stuffed startled tongues back into their gapping mouths. After a moment, the three men, all in perhaps their mid-twenties, sat down in the last row of pews as unobtrusively as they could.

      Well, the good preacher, never one to be outdone by the devil, grasped the sides of the podium and began to shake, softly at first, but then powerfully. Everyone, except our peculiar visitors I imagine, knew what was happening. The Holy Ghost was falling on our pastor 'in a powerful way'.

      His knuckles turned white, his eye balls bulged just a bit, his body began to quake as he exploded with one of the'fiercest Holy Ghost coverings' I'd ever seen.

      "Thus says the Lord God Almighty Whom I serve!" he shouted. "Thus sayeth the Holy One..." I squirmed uncomfortably in my seat, fear caused me to break out in a cold sweat. I'd heard about Ananias and Saphira in Sunday School: 'bout how God had struck 'em dead...

      "If I was one of 'yer Long Hairs, sayeth the Lord God, I wouldn't come to this House of Prayer! I'd be too afraid! Bless you Jesus!..."

      One of the men rose and silently left the church.

      "...of these Long Hairs you see in downtown Atlanta -- in Sodom! -- they're all a bunch of lefty pinko commie homosexuals! Thus sayeth the Lord God..."

      The second visitor arose, not quite so quietly, though I don't recall his saying anything, and walked out of the church. 

      "...Yes," the preacher continued, wiping the sweat of his anointing off with a white handkerchief and slamming his right fist on the hard surface of the podium. Then it happened, as I knew it would. He began shaking violently. Perspiration rolled from his furrowed brow in torrents, splattering the Amen Section. With his right hand he picked up his water glass, which was secreted under his pulpit. Raising it up as if to drink, his body jerked, his arm spasmed and he threw the water in his face - a sure sign 'the Holy Ghost was on him'.
      He pointed his boney index finger accusingly at us all and cut loose with a torrent of thou-shalt-nots that would have reduced a saint to tearful repentance.

      The remaining visitor sat unmoved through it all. He seemed intent on every word Preacher Thomas uttered. Through the preaching, through the alter call, which filled the small wooden alter to near record numbers, even through the tenth time as the choir crooned "Just as I am, without one plea, but that Thy Blood, was shed for me..." He sat. Unmoved.

      Finally, as well-spent repentant Church folk shuffled out into the night air, I watched as the remaining visitor slowly rose and made his way forward. I followed him at a distance. I had to see how God would 'break this sinner's obstinate heart.'

      As he approached the alter, Preacher Thomas came to him cautiously. Clearly he was amazed and not a little frightened of this odd young man with tattered clothes. Why hadn't he left, like the others?

      It was then I noticed the sense of peace on the young man's face. I had never before seen such a serene look (later, I heard some of the old timer's say they had noticed it too, drugs, they piously concurred).

      You know what Preach," the visitor began. "Some of what you said tonight was true..."

      Some! Was he questioning Preacher Thomas? Blasphemy against the Holy Ghost! I stepped back lest a stray lightening bolt should strike.

      "Me and my buddies do need something," he was saying. "We ain't happy, not really."

      Ah yes, I thought in my youthful naivete', the Spirit's gentle conviction.

      "But I tell you what," he continued,"if you're any sign of what God's like, then I think I'd rather go to Hell!"

      My mouth hit the floor!

      With an odd sense of grace, the visitor then turned and walked calmly out the door.

      Preacher Thomas stared after him for a couple moments. His face had gone from the red of 'Holy Ghost empowerment' to a deathly pale. He soon regained his composure however, and as the young man cleared the doorway the good Reverend shouted behind him, "Satan's got a hold of your brain young feller! You best repent! You hear me!"

      But he didn't.

      I turned back to Preacher Thomas, the man whom, you must understand, was God's earthly representative to me, and said, "Preacher Thomas, I agree with him."

      With that I rushed up the central isle and out into parking lot, where huddled Baptists watched a Volkswagen microbus filled with three 'angels in disguise' drive away into the night.
       

      I never saw those men again. Whether they were really 'angels' or not I can't say. But if by angels you mean messengers or spokespersons for God and Truth, then as far as I'm concerned, yes, they were angels.

      After that night I never returned to Harrell Grove. Instead, I began my own quest, my search for the Truth.
       

      The Roam'n Church is a vehicle through which I share some of my insights and experiences with anyone who is interested. It also makes me accessable for your input. So how about it? Let's talk. Take what works for you and leave the rest behind. I sincerely invite your participation via e-mail and my guest book. 

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