Christmas--a time of giving. But how about receiving? In Pat G'Orge-Walker's hilarious new novel, a small-town congregation will need every miracle in the Book to rediscover the real reason for the season . . .
Even feisty prayer warrior Sister Betty has never seen the kind of trouble brewing at Crossing Over Sanctuary church. The financially-struggling members have until Christmas day to pay off millions in debt to The Cheater Brothers' Piece of Savings Bank. And Reverend Leotis Tom refuses to accept any of trustee Freddie Noel's sinful mega-lottery winnings. Instead, he hopes bickering church mothers Bea Blister and Sasha Pray Onn's money-raising schemes will provide heaven-sent rewards--while he renegotiates with God.
The only way Sister Betty can help Freddie save his beloved church is to open the reverend's eyes to his congregation's history of wildly unholy--but profitable--secrets. . .and stay two steps ahead of the mothers' "Geriatric Mafia." Between scandal and near-disaster, Sister Betty will need all her faith to prove that blessings in disguise are blessings nonetheless. . .
"Hilarious faith-based romp ... Walker shines a little light on a wacky family reunion with her usual inspirational, knee-slapping style." --Publishers Weekly on Don't Blame the Devil
"A comic novel about mistakes and second chances." --Library Journal on Don't Blame the Devil
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Kensington Publishing Corporation
September 27, 2011
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Excerpt from No Ordinary Noel by Pat G'Orge-Walker
For the past eight years, Reverend Leotis Tom pastored full time at Pelzer, South Carolina's Crossing Over Sanctuary church. From the moment he laid his right hand upon the Bible and promised to lead the church to holiness, he'd battled one church mess after another against the Devil and, quite often, against his congregation. The besieged reverend fasted so much for peace he hadn't gained an ounce since he accepted his position.
He'd been only thirty-three years old when installed, and so fresh out of divinity college that he'd actually believed all he needed was a few words of "thus saith the Lord" scriptures and folks would fall in line; and with a touch of his anointed hands, he expected them to fall out, too. With his youthful ignorance he'd taken the helm, but not without controversy.
When the reverend's name first came up there was concern from one of the few remaining founding members of the church. Mother Sasha Pray Onn was in her late sixties and a tad bit neurotic. Widowed by choice was the rumor, although never proven. She'd always been the go-to church mother, the keeper of the church gossip-laced politics and all things that made the church's sanctified bus ride hazardous.
On the day when the reverend's name was laid on the sacrificial altar for pastorate, Mother Pray Onn had issues. Fired up, she had left subtlety behind and was chained to her seat in the first pew.
"He ain't been seasoned enough with trials and tribulations and some hawt church mess!" she warned."We need a Man of God who can take a punch from ole Satan and then knows how to pray that demon back to hell without getting the church scorched! I'm telling ya, that baby preacher y'all are considering, well he ain't that man!"
The Church Board never took into consideration the old church mother might've known of which she spoke. After all, Sasha Pray Onn and her entire Hellraiser clan were Satan's first cousins, although they didn't brag about it a lot. Nevertheless, the Church Board took a risk and for the first time ignored Mother Sasha Pray Onn. It wasn't much of a risk. The old woman, by that time, had gone on a cruise.
Without the sanction of the other twenty-eleven boards, the Church Board invited the very handsome, six-foot-five Reverend Leotis Tom from nearby Anderson, South Carolina, with the ink still wet on his graduation parchment, to "bring the word."They'd also made sure it was for the fifth Sunday service. Back then and even now, folks set a limit on attending church more than four Sundays a month. Fifth Sunday remains the safest for church politics.
Even as na�ve as Leotis Tom was then, he still knew that an invitation was really an audition.
When the day came, he'd arrived without a visiting preacher's usual church posse. There was no armor bearer to walk him up the three steps into the pulpit. He looked almost church-naked without some middle-aged nurse to wipe his brow or two or three Mothers to sit in the first pew and hype him and the congregation into a frenzy. Reverend Tom didn't even have a young minister-in-training to carry his Bible and his robe. Instead, he came prepared with faith and a vision from the Lord.
That Sunday morning, he'd stood at the pulpit, dressed in a black and purple, short-sleeved robe, with a modest gold cross stitched across the breastbone. His dark unruly hair was cut short. Whether on purpose or not his pecan brown muscles rippled, making his arms resemble the back of an alligator's tail splashing about.
Most folks probably couldn't remember what Reverend Tom preached that morning but the consensus was unanimous. The reverend was what the women folks and even some of the shameless men called, "hawt spiritual eye-candy who knew a little sumpthin' about the Word."The fact that the young man was single suddenly was in his favor, and most hoped that he'd never marry--unless it was to one of them.
That morning, the church's outgoing pastor, the Jheri curled and overweight Reverend Knott Enuff Money could only marinate in envy. All the time he'd been single and pastoring, he'd had to fight off the gay and the bi rumors. Reverend Tom came to church with muscular arms and no mention of a wife or a girlfriend and the congregation appeared to lose its mind.
Soon after, the conversation got around again to the urgency of selecting a pastor to take the place of Reverend Knott Enuff Money.
"We can't keep putting off getting a new pastor," one board member pointed out after learning Reverend Tom had an open invitation to preach at another local church."I suggest we hire him immediately."
The naysayers who attended only a few services and even less board meetings usually did what they were supposed to do when it came time to confirm anything, by saying, "No," and "Hell No!" But that time, even they went with the program, and voted on a few limitations to put into his contract should he accept their offer. They kept it simple. They'd wanted shorter sermons during football and baseball seasons, and no evening service on the night of the Stella Awards.
With agreement in place on how to regulate the pastor's preaching schedule, they hired Reverend Leotis Tom and hoped for the best. They also hoped Mother Pray Onn had a good time on her cruise because she would raise hell upon her return.
The installation service was a grand affair. Churches, big and small, bishops and pastors, the saved and the unsavory were all invited. The Reverend Leotis Tom received many accolades, and large sums of cash; someone had warned him not to accept checks unless he was prepared to pay return check fees.
The food was first rate. Several overweight sisters hit that kitchen and anointed the oven. They cooked a feast big enough to feed a third world country. Of course, the auspicious event had local newspaper and television coverage. The video would be sold during a few upcoming conferences.
There was no doubt that Crossing Over Sanctuary had a new star. Everything was wonderful until later on that evening when the young preacher rose to say a few words.
The Reverend Leotis Tom gave the customary thank you and his vision for the church and community. Then he made a promise that set everyone on notice.
"There will be no politics inside the church or outside the church. Politicians are welcome to worship, but they will not receive special favors. We will not gamble on our salvation with unholy alliances and that includes gambling of any kind. God doesn't want nor will He accept tainted money or favors!"
But that was then.