EXT.  HEMPHILL BAPTIST CHURCH—DAY 1954

The Sunday before Labor Day—the date.  It’s written on the marquee in front of the church in black lettering below the words:  Change is for tomorrow.  Repentance is for yesterday.  You focus on the parking lot.  The cars pulling in.  Big cars—Fords.  Gas guzzlers.  And one of them—a station wagon—you see the doors opening and Bridgette getting out with the help of her great-grandson, Ben.  A car parking next to them with Cleota getting out, her son David giving her a hand.  You see the two families walking up to the church doors, the ushers there to greet them.  David Threnody and his mother.  The whole Lebeau clan dressed in their Sunday best.  Bethany’s brothers and sister are there.  You see Gabby and Aaron awkward in their stiff church clothes. Bethany with the two children, Ben and Dulcinea, her parents, and Bridgette.

BRIDGETTE

I don’t know why if her husband can stay and Frenchie can stay why I have to come.  I’m too old to be fumblin’ about with this nonsense.  Ain’t gonna find no Yes or No here.  Problems and ends don’t come with it.  I done settled that account a long time ago.

VALERIE

Cleota came all the way down from St. Louis.  She bought your great-granddaughter shoes for school.  You know her husband ain’t farin’ well—got the lung problems.  And Frenchie’s worse than you when it comes to God fearin’ folks—he’s gotten stubborn in his old age and don’t remember when he used to take us.  Least we could do is come to church with her.  I ain’t been here in ages.  Church looks the same as when Cecily Bloodwood won that beauty contest—remember Robert?  My how things have changed yet Sunday mornings still make people act like what used to be… They may not be married no more, but church is good for the children…

BRIDGETTE

Yes the children—‘spose you should tell David that.  That boy’s worse than a hemorrhoid.  He needs to shit or get off the pot.  Boy needs to do right and make some money…  Smell that?  Smells like somethin’ died…

BETHANY

(guiding the children in and greeting the ushers)

You’re just used to the way I smell when I come to visit…  That ain’t reefer it’s reverence.  It’s the lacquer on the church pews…

BRIDGETTE

Did I ever tell you you’re my favorite, darlin’?

BETHANY

I’m everybody’s favorite

INT. CHURCH–DAY

It’s hard to distinguish anyone’s voice now.  People are greeting and finding their seats.  The inside of the church is diminutive, but well lit from windows lining each wall—not stain-glassed.  Hardwood floors and wooden pews—hymnals in the back.  The altar has red carpet—two steps leading up to the pulpit and behind that the seats for the choir partitioned off by a banister.  There’s a piano on the right and chairs for the other musicians on the left—metal music stands for their liner notes.

No one sits or quiets down when the pastor and choir enter.  Only when a woman shouts out a number and begins playing on the piano the other musicians joining her do the mixture of voices coalesce into an opening hymn—“A Mighty Fortress is our God”.  As the final notes are sung the pastor stands at the pulpit.  He lets a moment of silence fall on the congregation.  Then he speaks.

PASTOR

Church, what’s done is done and all things become new.  No you can’t do what you did.  Don’t matter if it was good or bad.  A habit you want or don’t want to keep.  You can’t do what you did…  That hymn you just heard that hymn we just sung was about a reformation—can I hear it now…  It’s about happiness in a change not in what you did or what you’re gonna do, but how you look to God as a foundation for it because church look for a moment.  Look at yourself yesterday and what you want for tomorrow.  When it’s just you it’s pride or shame.  Pride in the things you want to keep on doing and shame in the things you don’t.  And can you see the paradox in that church?  Because what do you want to keep on doing?  And are there things in it that you don’t?  You see people want to talk about habits like there are good ones and bad ones, but isn’t that in a frame of reference, church?  What’s good for you today may not be good for you tomorrow, and what’s bad for tomorrow might seem good for today—can I hear it now…  Some of you might be married.  Some of you single.  Is what’s good in a marriage good for the single man or woman?  I see children and I see old people.  Is what’s good for the old good for the young?  Or is what’s bad for the old good for the young?  You see you can’t stand outside it.  You can’t stand outside this church and know what’s good in it.  Just like those outside know what’s good outside right now and see what’s bad about being in here—because it’s a beautiful Sunday outside these walls right now.  But see God is inside and outside.  He’s in here right now and in you.  And He’s outside in what you draw into yourselves to be happy—He’s in all of it—do you see that church?  You can’t do what you did and always expect the same happiness, and what you will do and have done are not what’s gonna make you happy—it isn’t what’s made you happy and it ain’t gonna make you happy.  For the body they may kill, but God’s truth abideth still—can I get an Amen?

CHURCH

Amen!

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