“Hello. Dick Yarbrough speaking. How may I help you?”

“Dick, this is St. Peter. You have a minute?”

“Yeah, right. St. Peter. And I’m Ben Affleck. Look, I’m kind of busy right now, so whoever you are, thanks for calling and. . . . “

“No, seriously. I am St. Peter and I will prove it. See that tree in your yard? Watch this.”


“Whoa! Lightning just struck that tree! Burned it to a crisp! You really are St. Peter!”

“The one and only. Now that I have your undivided attention, I need some information. You-Know-Who has asked me to find out what is going on at Jekyll Island. Specifically, why has it become necessary to pay to pray at the Faith Chapel?”

“Well, I was not consulted on that decision but I understand that the Jekyll Island Authority says it costs money to maintain the chapel, what with insurance and utility costs and fire district fees and all that stuff. They originally were going to charge a $5 entrance fee all day but they have modified that a bit and will allow you to pray for free between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m.”

“Well, bless their hearts. If I am hearing you correctly, the JIA is saying that if you are weak and heavy-laden and cumbered with a load of care, you take it to the Lord in prayer free for two hours in the morning or otherwise it is going to cost you five bucks?”

“Well, when you put it that way, but ...”

“Any other churches charging an admission fee around there?”

“Not unless you count when the usher passes the offering plate on Sunday morning. Heh! Heh! Heh!”

“Dick, we like a joke in heaven as much as you mortals, but we find little humor in this situation. It was our understanding that Jekyll Island — which we created, by the way, not the Rockefellers or the guy who made toilets ...”

I think you are talking about Mr. Richard Crane. Actually, he manufactured plumbing equipment.”

“Whatever. Anyway, when the State of Georgia took it over in 1947, we were told that Jekyll Island– and I am quoting here – ‘would remain available to people of average income.’ Now, correct me if I am wrong but be careful if you do correct me because I’m rarely wrong and you saw what I did to that tree in your back yard, but I don’t think the millionaires had to pay to pray when they were at Jekyll and now average people will?”

“I believe that is correct but you see, times have changed and the Jekyll Island Authority is now running things and ...”

“Excuse me, but is this the same Jekyll Island Authority that proposed killing some of God’s most treasured creatures, namely the whitetail deer? That decision really didn’t go well up here. When we say ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill’, we aren’t blowing smoke. Shooting innocent deer that can’t shoot back.

This is like Goliath going after David and David without his slingshot. Bad form.”

Sir, I don’t know if you do Google searches up there or not, but the Authority has had a change of heart on that issue after the leader of the whitetails on Jekyll Island, a deer named Claude, got the public stirred up and got the JIA a lot of bad publicity. Now the Authority has announced it plans to study the problem some more — like four years more.”

“Four years? Heavenly days! It sounds like Claude and his friends have made the Jekyll Island Authority back off this nefarious idea.”

“It looks that way, sir. It also looks like a lot of citizens on Jekyll Island and around the state have taken a leaf out of Claude’s book and are raising, well, you know what about the proposed changes at Faith Chapel. Time is running out, however, because the ‘Pay to Pray’ plan goes into effect on February 1.”

“Good grief! The Jekyll Island Authority seems to attract controversy like a yard dog attracts fleas. Please tell the anti- ‘Pay to Pray’ folks that all of us here in heaven are pulling for them. If Claude could do it, so can they. Now, if you will excuse me, I just got a call that we have a new group of candidates awaiting entrance to the Pearly Gates and we think there might be a lawyer in the crowd. Alarm bells are going off all over heaven.”

“I understand. It has been an honor talking to you, St. Peter, and I am praying that all goes well, sir.”

“Your prayers would be much appreciated, son. Just remember that if you happen to be on Jekyll Island be sure we hear from you between 8 and 10 a.m. Otherwise, it is going to cost you five bucks.”

The Rev. David Yarborough is pastor of St. Simons Community Church. Contact him at david@sscommunitychurch.org or 634-2960.

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