by Sister Al Hoff
I. Angley's Miracle Service
“The blood, the blood! Blood stripes! The blood!” Rev. Ernest Angley
has hit the stage for his Friday Night Miracle Service, and the
several hundred folks scattered about the 5,400-seat church clap and
stomp their feet. “Stomp out Satan, stomp him out,” Angley exhorts.
Akron, Ohio-based Angley is among the last of the weirdly entertaining
televangelists still soldiering on since the Glory Days before the
Fall of Bakker. Nor has modern science kept him from faith-healing;
he’ll lay hands on you in person, through the TV (“place your hand on
the screen”) and now, over the Internet at his Web site.
You can catch up with Angley on Sunday mornings – check local listings.
It’s stunningly low-budget, but you can catch “miracles” in action if you
can peel your eyes away from Angley’s astonishing wig. But for the
full-immersion experience, a day-trip to the home church is recommended.
Rex Humbard’s former Cathedral of Tomorrow is Ernest Angley’s Church
of Today. (Angley’s former Grace Cathedral in southwestern Akron now
houses his Bible college.) Built in 1958, it’s a totally cool round
domed structure. The circular auditorium-style worship area takes up most of the interior, with various offices ringed around the
perimeter. Inside, the domed roof is masked in black, primarily to
highlight the gigantic inset white-and-red cross set in the ceiling
and ingenuously constructed from transculent lighting panels.
There’s an enormous stage, draped in the widest gold curtain I’ve ever
seen; above the stage, suspended against a twilight-blue wall and
flanked by gilt columns floats an ornate red velvet and gold crown. It
looks, frankly, like the world’s largest car air-freshener.
This evening, Angley just has a few words early on – he reports that
on his recent trip to Africa “the fishing was good” (the catch of the
day being souls), he reminds folks about their tithe and still later,
“the bills go on.” Please – the pipe organ begins to play softly – can
we get out the best check, the best cash, and make a praise offering.
But most of the first hour is taken up with singing, first from a
large choir with a full band, and then from a trio with cheesy backing
tracks. The three sing a selection of interminable upbeat songs,
finishing up with a couple numbers in African languages that the Holy
Spirit helped them learn. The tepid African rhythms are more
toe-tapping, and let’s be honest: There’s not many places were you can
see a portly white guy who looks like the weekend weatherman for Des
Moines ActionNews enthusiastically sing in Zulu.
Angley retakes the stage to explain that he’s jetlagged and that he
fell asleep while driving earlier (God spared him and others), so, he
apologizes, tonight’s service will be short. He commences to speak
uninterrupted for over an hour, a low-key folksy ramble in a Southern
cadence about the upcoming Sunday service, the buffet next door and a
series of anecdotes about the miraculous regeneration of hearts, lungs
and ear drums to the afflicted. (Angley wears the most astonishing
wig; can’t the Lord intercede with some miracle hair?)
But it’s Africa, “the Kingdom of Satan,” that dominates his musings.
He delivers a lesson in the various “devils that vex the darkness”:
witchcraft, voodoo, wizards; the success of “demonology night” that
saw “wads of defeated devils”; and how “prayed up” you have to be just
to enter “the devil’s territories.”
And, a quantifiable scourge, AIDS. Rev. Angley says it can be cured
miraculously , and he has documented proof. But he and several other
Western evangelists have recently (and rightly) come under fire in
South Africa and other nations for publicizing such claims.
But here at the Cathedral, there won’t be any dissent or even
skepticism. Angley is preaching not just to the converted, but to
those who will soon line up for healing service.
Once again, Angley cautions he’s weary, but the indefatigable
86-year-old spends the next 75 minutes laying hands on, and extracting
demons from, the 100 or so folks who take the stage. A stick mic lets
us share in the litany of complaints -- from the horrifying (“the
doctor says my bone cancer is back”) to the prosaic (“I’ve got a boil
on my shoulder”) to the tricky (“I brought my brother up because he’s
Angley performs his ablution – the waving of hands, the thumping of
afflicted’s forehead, the caressing of the diseased areas – while
calling on God, calling out demons, muttering in tongues and
delivering his patented “uh-HEEL-yuh!” Most congregants drop to the
floor, soak in the spirit for a few minutes, then return to their
seats. It’s a little sad, and possibly exploitive, but the unremoved
devil in me admits, also captivating.
I see no genuine miracles. A young man with crutches discards them,
then limps a few steps. Angley pronounces him healed, then returns the
crutches, telling him to “use them ‘til you don’t need to anymore.”
Angley generally ducks the lawfulness of claiming miraculous healing
by asserting that he’s not the healer, God is. Then why not take it
directly to the Upper Room? But perhaps as one might hire an account
for preparing one’s taxes, it’s useful to have a third-party expert on
As far as I can see, the truly odd thing about Angley’s service is how
it obviously validates both sides. If you believe in miraculous
healing or even just the power of its suggestion, step on up. But if
you think this is a racket designed to separate gullible desperate
people from their money and common sense, here’s a big dome full of
Services held EVERY WEEKEND as follows:
Friday Night Miracle Service - 7PM
Sunday Morning Worship Service - 10AM
II. Life of Christ Dioramas
Something extraordinary often happens at the intersection of
self-taught artist and religious fervor: works of art whose
earnestness can trump our normally rigid assessments of skill and
And so it is with the Life of Christ display, billed as “a
three-dimensional experience for the whole family,” created by the
late Paul Cunningham, who never even attended high school.
Located in the basement beneath the Cathedral Buffet, the exhibit
consists of 13 exquisitely detailed dioramas and a handful of
black-velvet paintings depicting scenes from “the earthly life of our
Lord.” Included are such popular life events as Meeting the Pharisees,
the Last Supper, Bearing the Cross and the Resurrection.
Similar to old-fashioned museum displays, a viewer pokes his head into
a dark cubbyhole and gazes nose-to-glass. The simple effect is to fill
your own field of vision with the scene.
The walls of the dioramas have been painted to mimic depth, but even
more extraordinarily, Cunningham has packed the scenes with
ever-shrinking people, structures and vegetation all the way to the
rear, a distance of a few feet. The sensation of three-dimensional
perspective is fantastic.
The primary figures – sculpted in clay, re-cast in plastic, then
hand-carved – aren’t much bigger than Barbies, yet are meticulously
garbed. A variety of simple materials – broom corn, aluminum wire,
rice paper -- has been transformed into the dense landscape of rocks
and plants. (The handout said Cunningham used real fingernails, but
honestly, you’d need a magnifying glass to know for sure.)
Cunningham’s dioramas clearly represent an astonishing amount of work
and dedication; each apparently took a year to build.
Truly, one could spend a lot of time marveling over these scenes,
finding the odd details at the edges, like a bumblebee or a woman
breastfeeding at the Sermon on the Mount. And intense study is
recommended: I was assured by the attendant that there was nothing
quite like gazing at the dioramas “to block the devil when you’re
trying to pray.”
Sadly, the diroramas have a vague patina of dust and perhaps benign
neglect from lack of visitors. Though I arrived well within posted
visiting hours, the display was locked and somebody had to be summoned
to let me in. I pleasantly killed time in the vaguely jungle-themed
anteroom which houses an assortment of African handicrafts, all
souvenirs and gifts from Angley’s overseas missions.
Other than a large selection of Rev. Angley’s tracts, the small gift
shop upstairs offers mostly generic knickknacks and jewelry. However,
the Lord, it is said, works in mysterious ways, and I found set of
drinking glasses depicting scenes from the Life of Christ exhibit at
the Goodwill across the street.
2690 State Road, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.
III. Cathedral Buffet
Nourish the soul; stuff the gullet: The third feature of Angley’s site
is the buffet. While it’s free of any religious trappings and
functions as a stand-alone eatery, it’s an integral part of the
complex. The restaurant is accessed through the gift shop, and one
wrong turn will have you breaching Angley’s TV studio.
Nothing fancy at the buffet: It looks much like a hotel banquet room
(and, in fact, is available for private party rentals). On a Friday
night, I joined a few dozen other diners scattered about the cavernous
space. Some, like me, may have been en route to that night’s miracle
service; others may have simply dropped in for an inexpensive meal
(dinner is $9.10).
Perhaps befitting Angley’s North Carolina roots, the fare here is pure
Southern comfort, and cardiologists beware. Among the offerings: fried
catfish, black-eyed peas, potatoes soaking in cheese sauce, broasted
chicken, biscuits with honey-butter, sweet-potato casserole, two kinds
of gravy, bread pudding, several fruit cobblers and red velvet cake.
It’s all you can eat, natch, but I was glad to see several polite
admonitions posted throughout: “Take all you want but eat all you
2690 State Road, Cuyahoga Falls. Tue.-Fri. 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m; Sat., 10
a.m.-2;30 p.m.; Tue.-Sat. 4:30-8 p.m.; Sun. noon-5 p.m.
pssst - more buffet discussion here!
A shorter version of this story appeared in the Pittsburgh City Paper
as part of Sister Al's "Searching for Salvation ...and Other Roadside Attractions"
It's SO worth your click:
Go for it! ----------> http://www.ernestangley.org/miracles/