Holy Hell, what a church service!
Led by Pastor Mark Pryor, the Pentecostals of Orange County got jiggy for Jesus on a recent Wednesday night, speaking in tongues, quaking in the Holy Ghost, and yes, sprinting around the sanctuary in the little converted industrial space shared with Calvary Chapel of Orange (who despise such Christ-inspired calisthenics) at the corner of Katella Avenue and Batavia Street in Orange.
With the congregation ready for some revival, Pryor didn't disappoint.
A look-alike for legendary college hoops coach Rick Majerus
, Pryor's voice was tuned to the key of dead preacher E.V. Hill
, and 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! 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!"
March 21, 7:30 p.m.
The OCeeker arrived just as the Pentecostals of Orange County were lubing themselves up with some clapping that could be heard from the parking lot. An elderly Latina greeted him at the door and asked that he fill out a contact card. No problem, mi sanctified senorita.
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 looked like a mini-replica of Roman architecture.
An eight-member band lit into some praise and worship. Four Mexican women (at least in appearance) 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 Mexi-congregation of around 30 worshippers were a'hootin', hollerin' and 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, instead of 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!"
A Fat Man Spits Tongues O' Fire
Pryor stormed the stage right after the worship team wrapped a solid set of praise.
"I'm glad to know that no matter what I'm going through-uh, no matter where I find myself in life-uh, I have a God-uh. And He's worthy to be praised-uh. He's worthy to be worshipped-uh. Hallelujah!"
Dressed in black slacks and a long-sleeve, dark blue shirt that soon pitted with sweat, Pryor's bald head beaded with perspiration from the get-go as he pronounced the place a little juke-joint of joy, while the saints stood, danced, clapped and spoke in tongues.
"I want to preach for a few minutes tonight and I'm goin' to do my best not to be lengthy, but I want to deliver the word of the Lord in this building-uh! God wants there to be a restoration in this house-uh! God wants there to be a restoration of joy in this house-uh!"
Oh shit. When a preacher says he won't be long, it's time to break out the sleeping bag.
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 Orange County are a United Pentecostal Church, meaning they take their cue from the second chapter of the Book of Acts, where 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 miracles and mayhem during their services. They shake, rattle and holy roll, with the hips never going all sexy-like, but instead, shuffling forward in a little two-step worthy of Al Jolson.
There were three old ladies in particular who got down to the Holy Ghost moreso than the other Pentecostals. Gray-haired and likely girdled-up, they barked their tongues and swayed like Frank Sinatra was sexing them up after a night at the local American Legion post. Ooh lordy, them women was praisin' Jesus!
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 like an angel on fire, peppering his prophecies with tongues and praises: SherodeaHondatoLaBamba!
"It's not a time to sit around lookin' like a sad-sack bump on a dill pickle-uh! But it's a time to get up and give God some praise-uh!"
As Pryor controlled the mic like Fat Joe, one of the aforementioned elderly women decided it was time to do laps around the sanctuary. Yup, she took off like a geriatric bat out of Hell, her granny boobs a'bouncin', her Bingo wings a floppin'. She did three laps in all in her polka-dotted black skirt, once passing the OCeeker with a flaming "Hallelujah!", her elderly scent dragging in her wake.
"I got more, but I'm done," Pryor growled, after about 45 minutes of preaching.
Which was good, because Pryor looked like he was going to have a heart attack. Gasping and sweating, he invited the congregation forward for more tongues and prayer. And so it went -- controlled chaos in the house of God. Mexican women screamed in tongues. White guys trembled. Even the group of a dozen young people sitting in one corner erupted in tongues and tears, all while Pryor boogied and laid hands on the sick and the sick of heart.
The OCeeker was on the verge of Crip-walking in the Spirit, when he spotted Pryor coming his way. But he was prepared. Step to me with that pork chop hand boss, and I'll whip out some NBA glossolalia on you: Whoawhoawhoa! RajonRondoandoneonDarkoMilicic!
Had to bounce though.
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.
No Bumper Stickers in Parking Lot
Two people greeted the OCeeker, which is one more than he gets a typical church.
The OCeeker gave Pryor's sermon a solid D, for "Damn, that wasn't a sermon, but it sure was entertaining!"
Don't visit the Pentecostals of Orange County if you're looking for a blessed boo. You won't get tongued, but you might end up speaking in tongues!
The Pentecostals of Orange County meet every 11:30 a.m. and 6 p.m., and every Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at 826 W. Katella Ave., Orange, firstname.lastname@example.org; pentecostalsofoc.org