A miracle occurred. Verily, a great, glorious, spectacular miracle happened. Well, in truth, it wasn’t so much a great, glorious and spectacular miracle as a moldy miracle. But it did happen. There can be no doubt about it. The most eminent miracle-verification authority, the Chief Marketing Officer of the Church of Infinitiaty, certified it.
Before getting into that, I need to provide some background.
The First Church of God 4242 of Wankershire, England is a medium-sized franchise of the Church of Infinitiaty. Until recently, it contributed a negligible amount to the Church of Infinitiaty’s revenue and profits. Although it’s owner, Esther Galilee didn’t realize it at the time, she was at risk of losing her church franchise because of its poor revenue performance.
Wankershire is a small, bucolic town in rural England. Four other Infinitian churches ply their godly trade in Wankershire, but there is no Second Church of God 4242 in the town.
Six years ago, Esther Galilee, a local dairy farmer in Wankershire, heard a calling. A voice inside her head told her that if she spent so much as another minute with another cow she’d go out of her freaking mind. That was the precise moment she got religion.
Esther* read about Church of Infinitiaty franchises in an ad in the back of Popular Metaphysics. She would never admit it to her friends, but the truth was she subscribed to the magazine only for its pictures of naked souls. That ad came to her mind when she had her anti-bovine epiphany.
She knew that one of the infinite number of Gods was telling her to buy a Church of Infinitiaty franchise. The Holy Spirit further impelled her to turn the franchise into a highly successful pious profit center.
The question for Esther was which God gave her The Word? It could have been any one of an infinite number of them.
It didn’t take Esther long to recognize the truth. A wise sage once wrote that the answer to the ultimate riddle of the universe is 42. Clearly 42 is a product of the divine. What’s more, if 42 is divine, 4242 must be twice as divine. But greater than that—424242, say—is a step too far from our the number of our Creator, God One.
Nobody can figure out why she believed that. But she did. Hence, she bought a franchise from the Church of Infinitiaty to open the First Church of God 4242 of Wankershire. That was about six years ago.
The Church franchise agreement requires that franchisees find and secure the occupancy of a suitable place of worship within six months of signing the agreement. If they fail to do so, they forfeit their franchise, without any recourse to a refund of the sizeable deposit.
Esther was in luck. Shortly before she purchased her church franchise, Wankershire’s municipal brothel moved to larger premises to accommodate its growing business. The brothel’s old building was available at below-market price on the condition that the new owner accepted it as-is, which necessitated considerable cleaning.
House of God
The former brothel’s orgy room was ideal for a starter chapel. The private bedrooms could serve as offices for the church’s clergy, its tithing manager and other church marketing and support staff. Included with the property as an adorable, Nordic-style, A-frame madam’s cabin immediately next to the brothel proper. The cabin was perfect for a residence for Esther.
The former brothel also came with considerable land. Esther was confident that, because it would be for religious purposes, she could convince the Wankershire town council to issue a building permit if she needed to significantly increase the size of the sanctuary as her religious flock grew.
Esther was not a very domestic sort of person. Some would say she was a slob, but those were only people who tended toward nauseatingly excessive politeness. Most close friends, on the other hand, called her a disgustingly gross, slovenly pig.
Cleaning supplies were otherworldly to her, and not a good other world. She was certain that if the Gods wanted us to keep our places clean they would have made them self-cleaning.
Cleanliness, Godliness, Etc.
A cleanliness stipulation in her church franchise agreement, along with a Wankershire health bylaw imposed on public places, required that she maintain a minimum level of cleanliness in the sanctuary. (Interesting aside: Due to a typographical error, Wankershire declared the sanctuary to be a pubic place, rather than a public place. This error had no effect on the cleanliness requirements because the Wankershire bylaws for pubic places are identical to its bylaws for public places.)
Esther convinced parishioners that volunteering to clean the church sanctuary and rooms was the most pious of services. God 4242 eternally rewards such volunteer work. Or so Esther said. Thus, she was able to maintain the necessary sanitary standards without imposing any burden on the profitability of her church franchise.
Being neurotic about people “touching her stuff,” particularly stuff reporting on the financials of her church franchise, Esther forbid the cleaners to enter her cabin. Thus—due to her sloth and slovenliness— dirt, grime and general grunge accumulated there. One morning, as she was about to leave for a motivational rally with her church’s tithing enforcement staff, Esther noticed that a dark grey mold now thoroughly covered the walls, floors and ceilings of her cabin.
The mold also covered the windows, rendering the interior a dismal, dark place even on the sunniest of days. However, when lit by candlelight, it appeared exceptionally sacred, in a Gods-are-horrifyingly-ominous-beings sort of way.
This set her mind in motion.
Esther’s mind was often in motion. At least, that’s what she told the parishioners of her church. According to Esther, her mind frequently left her body to travel to meetings with God 4242 to discuss spiritual matters and stock market forecasts. That was her story and she, to this day, consistently sticks with it.
On this occasion, however, “set her mind in motion” was a euphemism. The cabin-encompassing mold reminded her of one of the attributes of God 4242, the patron God of her church. According to an ancient Infinitian scripture, written in 1997 by a low-level Sage of the Church of Infinitiaty, God 4242’s form is that of a omnipresent, splotchy grey mass.
God’s Image: A moldy miracle
According to scripture, God 4242 refused to allow corporeal forms to be created in Her image. She decreed that creating beings in Her image would be the height of narcissism and egotism. It would therefore be shamefully sacrilegious. Despite God 4242 having no legal domain in our universe, which is God One’s Dominion, God One honors her decree in His universe as well.
Be that as it may, there was clearly a nearly omnipresent (omnipresent in her cabin, that is) splotchy grey mold covering the inner surfaces of Esther’s cabin. It looked exactly like the God 4242-image that God 4242 expressly forbade. Clearly this was a miracle. A moldy miracle, it’s true, but a miracle nonetheless. According to Esther this was God 4242’s sign that, to Her, Esther’s cabin was the most holy of ground.
Esther was no one’s fool. Well, that’s not entirely true. She was her own fool, but that didn’t prevent her seeing what this meant. Holy sites are the motherlode of the religion business.
She immediately applied to the Church of Infinitiaty for official designation of her cabin as a sacred site. This designation required that she surrender to the Church of Infinitiaty 50-percent of all revenues earned from her sacred site in return for marketing and promotion by the Church of Infinitiaty marketing department.
Pilgrimage to the Moldy Miracle
Esther, her church franchise, and the Church of Infinitiaty head office insist that everyone who worships God4242 must make a pilgrimage to the sacred shrine, aka Esther’s Holy Cabin and Tavern, at least once in their lives. The moldy miracle is so blessed, Esther argued, that to not visit at least once is a sin of epic proportions. If worshippers can’t afford the mandatory $500 entrance fee, the First Church of God 4242 of Wankershire offers a payment plan that is convenient, holy and charges an interest rate that is only barely usury.
In return for the entry fee, the Church deems all those who enter the sacred site to be blessed. For an additional $5 they receive a certificate indicating their blessedness. For another $20, they can have the certificate mounted in a gold-colored cardboard frame.
Beyond the official blessing, it is said that any true believer who worships in the shrine for at least 30 minutes will be lucky for the rest of his or her life. (Their life may or may not be significantly shortened by the toxic fumes given off by the mold.) Or, if they won’t be lucky, they can at least get lucky at popular prices. All fully paid-up moldy miracle visitors also receive a 20%-off coupon for the new whorehouse down the road. It is open to customers of all genders, sexes, races and faiths.
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* As legal owner of the franchise, the conditions of Esther Galilee’s church franchise agreement allow her to refer to herself as “The Most Reverend Galilee” or “The Most Reverend Esther.” However, she prefers to be known as simply Esther. She believes this brings her closer to her parishioners and, in particular, their money. Her theory is that informality increases parishioner loyalty and allows her to extract more in fees and donations to her church.