By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Holy Hell, what a church service!
Led by Pastor Mark Pryor, The Pentecostals of OC got jiggy for Jesus on a recent Wednesday night, speaking in tongues, quaking in the Holy Ghost, and yes, sprinting around the sanctuary in a little converted industrial space at the corner of Katella Avenue and Batavia Street in Orange.
A look-alike for legendary college-hoops coach Rick Majerus, Pryor's booming voice was accented with the pulled-pork flavor of Boss Hogg as he punctuated his orgasmic proclamations with down-home "uhs."
"I wanna preach somebody up out of a ditch-uh!" he thundered. "I wanna preach somebody up out of a valley-uh! I wanna preach somebody up out-uh of a drudgery-uh! I wanna preach somebody up out of a difficulty-uh! I wanna preach somebody up out-uh of a dry season in your life-uh! I wanna preach somebody up out-uh of the wilderness you been goin' through-uh! I wanna preach somebody up out-uh of the storm-uh that has been blowin' around you-uh. I have come tonight-uh to declare-uh in the Holy Ghost-uh that there is a restoration-uh of joy-uh that God wants to send-uh in this building tonight-uh!"
The OCeeker arrived just as the Pentecostals of OC were lubing themselves up with some clapping that could be heard from the parking lot. The interior of the building was painted two shades of tan, with purple seats filling the main room. White columns pressed against a wall that backed a stage adorned with a white pulpit that resembled Roman architecture.
An eight-member band lit into some praise and worship. Four Mexican women sang, including Pastor Mark's wife, Debbie, who tickled the keyboard and appeared to be close to tears during the pounding, drawn-out songs.
Not two minutes into the first ditty, the mostly Mexican congregation of around 30 worshippers was a-hootin', a-hollerin' and a-howlin' in the Holy Ghost. It was hard to believe we were across the street from Lamps Plus and 10 minutes away from an Anaheim Ducks game, not across a creek from Moonshine Plus and five minutes away from Shickered City.
But Pryor promised we wouldn't be shickered on shine. Nay, ye mockers. Pastor Mark promised we would get hooched-up on the Holy Ghost: "We're not drunk, as ye suppose; we're just filled with the Holy Ghost!"
Dressed in black slacks and a long-sleeved, dark-blue shirt that was soon drenched with sweat, Pryor's bald head beaded with perspiration from the get-go as he pronounced the place a little juke joint of joy. The saints stood, danced, clapped and spoke in tongues. Pryor read a few Scriptures, including Hebrews 12:2, which says we are to look unto Jesus, "the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God."
Now, Pryor and the Pentecostals of OC are a United Pentecostal Church, meaning they take their cues from the second chapter of the Book of Acts, in which the first Christians spoke in tongues and tongues of fire rested upon their heads as a sign of the outpouring of the Holy Ghost on the church.
In other words, they're into mayhem. They shake, rattle and holy roll, with hips never going all sexy-like, but instead shuffling forward in a little two-step worthy of Al Jolson.
As for Pryor, he was all piss and spirit, punching the air, daubing his lathered face with a black handkerchief, busting out one-legged jigs, and hopping up and down the steps of the stage, peppering his preaching with tongues and praises: SherodeaHondatoLaBamba!
"It's not a time to sit around lookin' like a sadsack bump on a dill pickle-uh!" he told his congregation. "But it's a time to get up and give God some praise-uh!"
Pryor controlled the mic as though he were Fat Joe, while an elderly Latina decided it was time to do laps around the sanctuary, seemingly a geriatric bat out of Hell, her granny boobs a-bouncin', her Bingo wings a-floppin', once passing the OCeeker with a flaming "Hallelujah!"
"I got more, but I'm done," Pryor growled, after about 45 minutes of preaching. Which was good because he looked as though he were going to have a heart attack. Gasping and sweating, he invited the congregation forward for more tongues and prayer. Apparently given a second wind, Pryor boogied and laid hands on the sick and the sick of heart.
Step to me with that pork-chop hand, boss, and I'll whip out some NBA glossolalia on you: Whoawhoawhoa! RajonRondoandoneonDarkoMilicic!
But there's only so much tonguing a man can take in one night. The OCeeker could hear 'em carrying on as he walked to his American-made car.
The OCeeker gave Pryor's sermon a solid D, for "Damn, that wasn't a sermon, but it sure was entertaining!"