Having vanquished Thanos and saved the universe, the Avengers found themselves with nothing meaningful to do. Sure, Hulk would go out and smash a few shoplifters now and then, but after a while the ACLU protested (in writing, from a secret location a very long way away) and even that came to an end. Finally, though, Tony Stark came to the rescue, as he was always wont to do anyway.

“Okay kids, listen up,” he said with a playful smirk, “I’ve just come back from a little jaunt down to the merry old southland, and my brain has been fully smitten with a heavenly epiphany, literally.”

“English, please?” Captain America said with a characteristic cock of his head and raised eyebrow.

“That was English, frisbee boy,” Black Widow chimed in.

“Oh, was it? I’m sorry, I didn’t recognize it through the haze of typical Stark-speak.”

“Now now, boys and girls, you should play nice. In fact, you are going to have to play nice, because we are going into the church business.”

A stunned silence settled over the room. Ant Man and Hawkeye just looked at each other, unsure of what to say. Bruce, though, not so much.

“Um, last time the word ‘god’ came out of my mouth I was smashing Loki all over the floor.”

“Yeah, but that was just Loki. I’m talking about the real God.”

“You mean me, obviously,” Thor said as he poked out his chest.

“No offense, Point Break, but you couldn’t save Asgard, your own eye, or even your hammer. That’s why you’re now carrying a $12.99 mini-sledge that you got from the Home Depot. No, I’m talking about starting a church, you know, for the REAL God. God God.”

Finally it seemed to click with all of them.

“Oh, you mean like, hymn books, preaching, altar calls, that kind of thing,” Bruce said as he adjusted his glasses. “I don’t know, Tony, maybe we should stick to making inanimate things come to life and then panicking as they try to destroy all life on the planet.”

“Oh c’mon,” Tony said, “It’ll be fun. Folks down in the Bible-belt love it. Trust me, it’ll be great.”

All of the other Avengers were clearly skeptical, but since Tony had saved the entire world a few times, they decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. And so, two weeks later in a store front building with a white 15 passenger van out front, the first service of Avengers new and as yet unnamed church came to order.

Naturally, Captain America had been chosen as pastor.

“Um, welcome, we’re all very glad you are here,” he said, but it did not really sound like his heart was in it. And truthfully it really wasn’t, mostly since he was looking out at pews that contained just the rest of the Avengers plus two pre-teen kids from the neighborhood. After all of his successes, he was not sure how to handle such an obvious failure. Why were the pews not full of people?

And yet, undaunted, he plunged ahead.

“Um, I know we’re supposed to have singing in church. But, uh, none of us Avengers have ever done any singing, so we called in a little help. It took some doing, Stark and Banner had to put him back together tiny piece by tiny piece, but since he is the only person we have ever had much to do with that ever did any singing, let’s have Ultron come up and lead the first hymn.”

Both of the kids dropped their phones, and their jaws, as the metallic monster floated over to the pulpit.

“Okay, everyone stand and open your hymn books to Amazing Grace.”

The Avengers and one of the kids stood up promptly, but the other kid lagged a bit, and Ultron did not like his hesitation. So he vaporized him.

“Does anyone else not want to sing? Cause there’s more where that came from,” he said with sarcastic anger.

“Hey, mini-me,” Tony shouted as his full Iron Man suit formed around him, “vaporize anyone else here today and your invitation will be an expiration, got it?”

“Oh alright,” Ultron quipped, “Don’t be so touchy, there’s more “ch-urchins” where that one came from.”

Everyone was pretty upset with Ultron, but they did have to admit that the other kid sang like an angel after that.

As with any good church, an offering was soon received. The bad news was that even Tony had not had enough foresight to order offering plates. The good news was that Cap’s shield served admirably in that role. The “mere mortals” among them, Hawkeye and Black Widow, chipped in a few bucks, Ant-Man suddenly shrunk to an invisible size, Banner just shrugged, and Tony dropped in a couple of billions.

And then came the preaching.

“Okay,” Pastor America began, “let’s start by talking about things that the Bible says are wrong, like losing your temper.” That was probably not the best place to start; Banner immediately felt like he was being preached to, lost his cool, and went full Hulk in under two seconds. His suit was shredded, and yet he somehow, as always, was left with a few shreds of his pants still covering him.

Thor moved in to grab him, and Hulk punched him through the side wall of the building all the way into the back alley. Black Widow and Hawkeye bailed out through the plate glass window into the street. Iron Man and Spider man, though, were determined to keep their fledgling congregation and house of worship intact. They had, in fact, along with Pastor America, prepared for just this possibility.

Spider man completely wrapped Hulk in webbing. Iron Man grabbed him and held on tight. Captain America jumped down from the pulpit and smashed Hulk over the head with his shield. The resulting reverberation ripped the webbing off of the Hulk, knocked down the walls of the church, threw the one remaining kid out into the street (where Hawkeye caught him and put him down safely) and shattered glass for ten blocks. Even worse, the shock wave caused a nearby water tower to collapse, nearly drowning all of them

Thor split and left to start his own church on another planet.

The kid left and never came back.

Hawkeye, Black Widow, and Spider Man went to join Thor.

That left just Tony and the Hulk, both thoroughly drenched, sitting on the front step.

“Well,” Tony said, “At least we know what to call it now.”

And that is how the Stark Raving Mad Baptist Church was born.

Pastor Bo Wagner can be reached by email at 2knowhim@cbc-web.org, and his books and audio downloads are available by clicking the “Store” link above