There in the dark, Hank knelt down beside the bed in prayer. [Mary] knelt down beside him, took his hand, and together they placed themselves in the hands of the Lord. God’s will would be done this night, and they would accept it, whatever it was.
Alf Brummel had a key to the church and was already there, switching on the lights and turning up the thermostat.
Earlier today (as I write this in advance) I was mentioning to my partner how it takes real dedication to Jesus to look at a weekend, how there’s only 48 hours to get everything done before you have to go back to working two jobs to make ends meet and 16 of them (okay, maybe 10?) have to be spent on sleep, and still carve out four hours to go to church on Sunday. Poor people who are religious give up so much more in order to make room for Jesus than rich folk who wouldn’t be doing anything on Sunday mornings anyway. Maybe I’m just being oversensitive here, but doesn’t this passage come off a little like saying those who don’t have time to pray because they’re out there actually, you know, making things like this meeting function are inferior in the eyes of God to those who are forgoing actually making things happen in favor of leaving it all in God’s hands?
We meet a few of the parishioners as they begin to trickle in, then we cut to the supernatural visitors: Lucius Malfoy, who is nervously pacing on the roof and Signa and his two warriors, who are allowing demons inside but keeping an eye out for Rafar. Their presence appears to be scaring the demons straight.
We’re told Busche is somehow helping people get through their marital issues. I’m assuming the marital issues in question all relate to the man, because as we’ve seen, Hank can barely sit through a session with an attractive woman without breaking out into a nervous sweat.
Brummel begins to pray showily and ostentatiously; Triskal and Chimon snark:
“Getting any strength?”
Chimon answred, “Why? Is somebody else going to pray?”
I rather like this bit, if only because it’s actually grounded in honest-to-goodness biblical teaching rather than speculation and extrabiblical writings:
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.”
(Matthew 6:5, New International Version).
Similarly, I don’t have much of a problem with Hank’s speech. His belief in the rightness of God’s word as written is accented by his deep and abiding love for his flock. If only we could see some of that love when he talks to them away from the pulpit, I’d have no issues with his motivations whatsoever. Loving people, really loving them and wanting to help them, is never a problem; it’s how you express that love that can occasionally be problematic.
The next two pages are so full of repetition I wish we’d left when Hank did. Yet again we hear about how unjust it was for Hank to judge Lou Stanely; yet again we hear about how they wanted a different pastor and Hank got voted in ‘by mistake’. The worst repetition has to be this bit, though:
In another car came John Coleman and his wife Patricia, a quiet couple who came to Ashton Community after leaving a large church elsewhere in town. They really liked Hank and made no effort to hide it.
“I think Hank Busche is a real man of God, a good pastor, and I’d really hate to see him go.The church Pat and I came from, well, it just wasn’t meeting our needs, and we were getting hungry: hungry for the Word, for the presence of God.”
John Coleman, Page 101
Ten bucks says that now that they’ve said their piece, we never see these characters again. Why was the random infodump as they pulled into the church required if they were going to tell their story a few pages later?
A demon named Cheating tries to affect the vote, but Guilo stops him (against orders, most likely); the vote comes out to be a tie. They’re just about to take a smoke break when two old ladies show up, despite being frail and ill, to cast their vote. Sickness tries to give one of them a stroke, but the other blocks his way — it turns out to be Tal himself, in disguise. So much for not interfering, huh? To balance things, Lou Stanley enters.
Wait. He was excommunicated. Why does he even GET a vote? How does that work?!
Anyway, Hank wins by two, implying Stanley himself wanted him to stay for some mysterious reason. The demons pitch a fit, and Tal confirms that was the real Lou Stanley, no tricks this time.