The reverend Ellis Evans, the parish priest of St Gwynno’s church in the village of Ynysybwl, South Wales, is a long way from home and still somewhat bemused by his new role as the ‘Visiting Shepherd’ at The Church of the Lost Sheep in San Diego, California. Learning that the church is the home of an evangelical TV station, Ellis begins to doubt the ‘special job’ the Archbishop found for him.
Ellis sees himself as having all the bombast of a Welsh Ian Paisley but, unlike the late Irishman, possessed of a mellifluous voice, in contrast with his idol, who seemed to have gargled with shards of broken glass, before screaming, ‘Never! Never! Never!’
Ellis is happy: taking a year’s enforced sabbatical allows him to think he’s winning the conflict between his fiery adherence to a puritanical Christianity and the high church values of the Archbishop of Wales.
A stretch-limo takes Ellis to the Hotel del Coronado for his first meeting with the owner of the church and TV station, Lance Arthurson. Before Ellis can speak, Lance announces, Ellis, my man, your boss, the archbish, says you’re the orator to inspire our sheep and swell the coffers to feed the poor.
Ellis frowns. I’m not a fund raiser.
It’s easy. Here, we have to earn what we give away and you get 15% of the net totals. You look uncertain, Lance says. It’s a good deal.
Money and God don’t mix for me, Ellis disdainfully observes.
For the lost sheep God moves in many ways, Lance smiles.
Ellis realises ‘the archbish’ is more devious than he thought.
Ellis’ first service and TV appearance is on November 26th the USA’s National Cake Day. What is that? Ellis wonders. Sounds like the sin of gluttony to me – a call to obesity. Ellis is to judge a display of cakes, made by members of the flock, followed by an inspirational sermon.
At eleven o’clock, Ellis enters the church and blesses the congregation before inspecting the multitude of displayed cakes, His judging complete, he makes his way to the pulpit. He begins. Let us pray for all those addicts for whom the next cake is a compulsion. Pity those salivating over the next jam doughnut, croissant, bear’s claw, cinnamon roll, chocolate brownie, and yes, even Devil’s cake and then Angels’ Food cake. What is more sacrilegious than a giant three-storey chocolate cake with iced Doric columns and sparkling sweeties in the form of a cross on the roof? What do cakes have to do with our Lord?
Ellis climbs down from the pulpit and, without further ado, overturns the tables, shouting, As Jesus cast out the moneychangers from the temple, so I cast out gluttony! Cakes fly in all directions. The congregation shout their outrage. Ellis stamps on a huge Pavlova. Studio staff fail to drag Ellis away as he hurls a cameraman into a Battenberg sky-scraper.
You’re fired! Lance shouts.
The Archbishop thinks I’ll give in. Never! Never! Never! Ellis mellifluously shouts.
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© Phil Cosker 2022
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