By: Nicole Chardenet Re: The Devil You Say! I found this little gem in the Bristol Press,

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By: Nicole Chardenet Re: The Devil You Say! I found this little gem in the Bristol Press, our local newspaper, yesterday...I thought we could add this to the list of Stupid Fundy Tricks... IS DEVIL TO BLAME FOR CHURCH'S WOES? Minister's Wife Hurt, Rev. Blamed By Alyssa Gabbay, Associated Press MARS, PA - For Tony Puccio, there's no question why his church is collapsing, his pastor is accused of trying to kill his wife and strange symbols have appeared on his congregation's lawn and parking lot. It's Satan's work. "We believe in healing and seeing people get saved," said Puccio, a 36-year-old insurance salesman. "Satan doesn't like that." The authorities have different ideas. They say the Rev. Richard Rossi, not Satan, is guilty of attempted murder, and they intend to bring him to trial as early as this month. The troubles at the First Love Church started in June when the pastor's wife was found beaten nearly to death long a rural road. When she came out of a three-day coma, Sherrie Lynn Rossi, 34, pointed the finger at her husband. "I know the truth," she said. "My husband was hitting me over and over. I can still hear the sound. I cried out to Jesus." But the minister, known for his rock 'n' roll style of preaching, complete with guitar and songs, denied it. Rossi - soaking weet and wearing only a pair of khaki shorts - had turned up a mile from where his wife was found, two hours later. He told police that a man who looked just like and him drove a car just like his jumpoed into his wife's car as the pair were looking at houses. A Satanic cult might have been responsible for the beating, he said. Mrs. Rossi later recanted her allegation and said her attacker was someone other than her husband. It could have been a demon in human form, she said at one point. Parishioners have sounded the same theme, saying devil-worshipping cults operate in the church's suburban Pittsburgh neighborhood. "The way I see it, if you're doing something for God, the enemy is always going to try to stop you," said Phil Burd, a 30-year-old truck driver. "Someone is definitely trying to stop what Rich is doing here." For proof, parishioners flash fuzzy photographs of a pentagram - a Satanic symbol - that was scratched in the gravel of the church's parking lot a few weeks after the assault. Just a few days later, they say, the numbers "666" - the mark of the anti-Christ - were burned into the nearby lawn. But police say they have never received any other reports of Satanic activity in the area. And the pentagram was invisible unless you "stood on a ladder and looked for it," said Bill Westerman, Adams Township police chief. They suggest that the Rossis had marital problems, and say Rossi asked a 31-year-old Pittsburgh nurse to be his mistress. (Through a lawyer, Rossie denies any improper contact with the woman.) The crime has taken a toll on the independent church, whose first members were alcoholics and drug addicts, according to elder Jim Flowers. Services are now sparsely attended; there were just 45 worshippers at a recent Sunday. More than 200 once crowded into the church's modest meeting room, where parishioners still occasionally swoong during faith-healing sessions. With congregants dropping out, the church wasn't able to move into a new $450,000 building as planned by the end of the year, and some members even question whether it will be able to hold onto its current building. Defectors say it's wrong for Rossi to serve as pastor when he is accused of a horrible crime. The pastor, free on $250,000 bail, still sings and gives sermons. "I feel strongly that when somebody is on the altar, they should be representing the Lord," said furniture-maker Bridget Rossi, who is no relation to the minister. "Rich is not representing the Lord." On the other hand, a woman who identified herself only as "Rene" said she came back after dropping out for several weeks to think things over. "I was confused and, you know, confusion is brought on by the devil," she said, tossing her long red hair over her leather jacket. "When it's God who's in your mind, everything's laid out very clearly." Rossi started the church in 1986 as a Bible study group called Matthew's Party. * * * I disagree strongly with the contention that the pentagram is a Satanic symbol. The accompanying picture shows a guy who looks like a cross between Wolfman Jack and Sylvester Stallone playing the guitar and singing to a couple of people. When in doubt, blame the Satanists, huh??? Yours in heresy, The Heretic nicole.chardenet@excalibur.org

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