The South—Parishioners of Pastor Theo Leobald’s First Congregational Church of Holy Christ In Heaven will not meet next Sunday morning for a coffee social and morning Bible study as they do every week, gathering in fellowship and offering thanks and praise to God on high. The reason for the cancellation? Simply the fact that, according to Leobald, God does not now, has never, and will never exist.

The Church of Holy Christ In Heaven will soon change its name to the Church of Imaginary Make-Believe Land.

When asked why he is convinced of God’s nonexistence, Leobald became visibly irritated with reporters.

“What’re you, an illiterate peasant? Aren’t you familiar with 20th century thinking at all? Christ, read a book, or maybe just think about the idea for a minute. Pretty ridiculous, huh?” he said.

When pressed, however, he sighed heavily, and explained that thousands of years ago, tribes of nomadic desert peoples made up God because, being incapable of scientific reasoning due to caveman-like existences, they had no other way of making sense of things like sunshine, rocks and pork-transmitted trichinosis.

“They made it all up, and they were ignorant, unwashed, half-naked pre-historic barbarians,” Leobald said. “So who are you gonna believe: Carl Sagan, and the pantheon of the world’s greatest scientific and intellectual minds, or some guy who measured wealth by how many goats he had?”

Sagan, according to Leobald, is an “astronomer” in a big city far, far away who writes what are known as “books.”

“I just felt like an idiot saying all that nonsense week in, week out. What’s the point of singing hymns of joyous adoration to a fictional entity?” Leobald said.

“Why convene to donate time, money and personal resources to a being which exists only in fabulous legends and mythological ancient texts? If we were to keep doing that, week after week, why, we’d feel ridiculous, wouldn’t we? Plus, we’d look pretty stupid as well. It’d be like talking to a wall, and frankly, I’ve got better things to do with my time. And I sincerely hope all of you do too.”

Although reactions among community members to Leobald’s decision have been varied, most have been positive.

“I never really liked getting up that early on the weekend anyway, but continued to do so out of gripping fear of having my entrails eternally ripped out by flaming scimitars after death,” Gregory H. Tensdale, 51, said. “But now that I know it’s all just pretend, I am no longer terrified.”

Tensdale concluded by adding that the uncomfortable dress-up clothes he has always detested will be on the trash heap by sundown, and that he fully expects to stay clad only in underwear until well after the game on Sundays from now on.

“I enjoyed the lovely singing during church service, and was very sad to see it go, particularly because I am a lonely septuagenarian waiting to die,” Mabel Graskowsky, 78, said. “But then Pastor explained to me that there are groups who get together just for singing only, and I could go to any one I wanted whenever I wished. Just singing! None of that boring inbetween stuff I always slept through. I’m much happier now.”

Not all opinions were as supportive.

“Who cares if God isn’t real? I say worship him anyway,” School Board Member Fred Nichtenhausen said. “After all, every grown-up man and woman knows Santa Claus isn’t real, yet we worship him every year on Christmas, the Holy Day of Santa’s birth, as prophesied by Nostradamus.”

Added junior high school student Curt Mondaham, who was unimpressed with the pastor’s speech, “Big deal. He’s just saying the same thing Neil Peart’s been saying for years.”

For those who still want to worship, if not God, but just something, Leobald has started a Sunday morning group called The Church of Imaginary Make-Believe Land, where churchgoers will have their choice of nonexistent beings to submit to. Some of the worship selections include Poseidon, super-agent James Bond and fabled storybook character Peter Pan. “I’m worshipping Peter Pan,” Gladys Fye, 108, said. “I do so love his adorable little pointed green shoes. Oh, that Tinkerbell with her magic dust!”

For his part though, Leobald says he will not be attending.

“I’m meeting once a week, not Sundays but on Wednesdays, with anyone who cares to join me. We won’t be worshipping anybody, just practicing my favorite hobby, horticulture. I’ll admit, it doesn’t have the power to grant eternal absolution from earthly pain, but at least flowers are real. We must cultivate our garden.”

Enlightenment Era polymath Voltaire contributed to this article.