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"In spiritualism, people open up and become more sensitive, but that can be a double-edged sword," Charlotte continues. "You're sensitive to spirit guides and loved ones, but you also get your feelings hurt more easily."
Plenty of feelings were hurt when the church found itself holding meetings at Denny's this fall. After receiving a report of mold, the Kansas City, Missouri, Health Department contacted Charlotte. She says the board, which was still intact at the time, "jumped into a panic" and voted to close the chapel for repairs when she delivered the news. That left the Mains scrambling for a replacement worship space. Eventually, they decided on the banquet room at the Denny's on Shawnee Mission Parkway in Shawnee.
"We shopped around, but we couldn't find a space available that was reasonable for us," Henry says. "As long as people eat their meals there, there's no charge, and you can't beat that."
That lone condition became a point of contention when the Ethelaine Chapel crowd ordered only water during the services. Henry says the group later went into the regular dining room to eat meals, but some Denny's employees -- who didn't see the congregants order meals -- became miffed, thinking the worshippers were skinflints. (Several Denny's workers confirmed this account but asked not to be named for this story.)
Eventually, the Mains convinced the management at Denny's that they were worth having as guests. But a larger problem remained: getting chapel regulars to visit the new site.
"The angels were there, as always," Henry says. "We had no problem doing the messages. But hardly any people showed up."
"Our people are hard to change," Charlotte says. "Hardly anyone showed up. We usually had between three and six people."
The Mains eventually canceled Wednesday evening and Sunday morning services. But because these changes weren't noted on the typewritten sheet stapled to the chapel's signboard, several congregants made the trip, only to be turned away once they reached the restaurant.
Regardless, the Mains got by with makeshift arrangements and a threadbare audience. They sang their hymns a cappella, sometimes with roughly rhythmic tambourine accompaniment. They set up an altar, pushed a restaurant chair against the wall for healings and hung pictures of Jesus in the room. Using candles, they spread blessings on the room, invoking light and setting up the sacred space. A setting that could have been a Moon Over My Hammy, side-order-of-savior novelty became a sanctuary of sanity and spirituality in a bustling breakfast backdrop.
Still, the forced pilgrimage to Denny's devastated the chapel, both in terms of the cost to its already shrinking congregation and the expense of the mold investigation and follow-up tests, which the Mains say totaled $350.
At the December 7 service, a frizzle-bearded man and a young woman enter midway through Charlotte's sermon and sit silently while Oneitha frequently expresses vocal approval with "Yes" and "Mmm-hmm." The doubtful guests bolt without subtlety at the introduction of the phrase "tithes and offerings." Today's total: $4.
"We hardly have any income," Henry says. "People put a dollar in, which is fine, but that won't even pay utilities. But a lot of times, people can't afford any more than that. We're there for whoever needs us." In the chapel's guest book, a recent registrant has written "homeless" under the address heading.
"People think it's a fountain of money," Henry continues. "People think we're getting rich somehow, and they're the ones putting in one dollar at a time."