One Person, no matter who he or she is, is a very small part of a population. Why are some individuals given so much artificially created importance? It’s not artificial, you may say. People need leaders, and it’s perfectly natural that the leader of a large group will be very important to the welfare of the group and will bear a disproportionate share of the burden for maintaining that welfare. In at least one sense it certainly is natural.
The way humans treat their leaders–and the way some of them become leaders–is at heart pretty much the same as the hierarchical social structures of, say, baboons or chimpanzees. Males fight one another with the hope of becoming “alpha male;” those who don’t win are subservient to him, and females are subservient to all of them, with finer degrees of hierarchy of their own. The differences between how baboons do it and how we do it are more in details than in the essence.
That’s not surprising. All of us–baboons, chimps, humans–are primates, with common evolutionary roots both biologically and culturally. Our social systems look like modified versions of theirs because they are modified versions of theirs. And it works pretty well, for baboon troops. Their hierarchies, for all the conflicts they entail, probably do serve the group’s long-term welfare by preventing more extensive conflicts that would likely arise if nobody were imposing some order, and presenting a united front to external threats.
Dr. Stanley Schmidt, Editorial: “VIPs”; Analog Science Fiction and Fact, July/August 2012.
In one fell swoop, Dr. Stanley Schmidt just described the sociological world of Herbert Armstrong in the Worldwide Church of God: A strongly hierarchical structure with him at the top over a group of primates, acting every bit like baboons.
Generally speaking, as civilization matures, the evolution is toward the individual having freedoms in a venue where it is recognized that, for the most part, there is an equality among the people and there isn’t one particular super human to become the supreme autocratic leader. This assumes that each member of the citizenry take ownership to maintain order and act responsibly. It would appear that autocracies based in a stong hierarchical structure are regressions negating our social evolution, obliterating the hope of pursuing life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness by the singular individual.
It has become painfully obvious that Herbert Armstrong imposed order to present a united front to external and internal threats: It is obvious, because with his death, the conflicts have increased 700 fold and are certainly doing nothing to serve the group’s long term welfare. Even though Herbert Armstrong was one small fat short man, he rallied others to him as the “alpha male” to gain control of the group.
During his time, Roderick Meredith, Gerald Flurry, David Pack, Dennis Luker, Ronald Weinland, were all the losers and became subservient to him, with the females subservient to all of them, with finer degrees of hierarchy of their own. No real intelligence was needed: It’s pretty much social genetics, making the victims mere pawns in the evolutionary scheme of things, in yet another minor league cult. And yes, there are many more groups and larger groups of “baboons”, but what has happened in Armstrongism is instructive in the understanding of how locked into a system primates can be. In reality, Herbert Armstrong had absolutely no worth as either a person, an apostle or a false prophet, but he was in charge, and darn it all, we were going to believe and follow him, no matter what, without much thought put into it, following, as it were, our animal passions.
Dr. Schmidt continues:
Why do we keep doing this to ourselves?
People need leaders, you may say again, and I must agree at least in part: Some people need leaders most of the time, and perhaps most do under some circumstances. We’re sometimes told that people tend to be either leaders or followers, and in my experience many do tend to lean more toward one or the other–the in the complex hierarchies of our present societies, many people play both roles in different subgroups. And I don’t buy the idea that everybody has a natural preference for one or the other. Personally I don’t like to do any more of either than necessary. I prefer to work as independently as possible as much of the time as possible, and it’s how I usually work best.
Now, in the realm of religion, particularly Christianity, one would think that there would be more individuality: According to Scripture, when Christ died, the veil to the Holy of Holies was ripped down the middle, and symbolically, was a metaphor that the people no longer needed the High Priest as the leader to go directly to God the Father. One would think. It was to be a new world with the Old Covenant done away and a New Covenant written, so that there was no more hierarchy to get to God. The good news of the gospel is that your sins separating you from your God were covered and you had redemption. This was now a higher plane above, not just above the primates, but mankind itself. Old habits die hard. And there are a lot of successful con men out there, ready and able to recapture people as livestock to live off of them, promoting the very vision of the 1972 Princeton Prison Experiment, replete with the Warden Superintendant, guards and prisoners, reducing the supposedly spiritual plane back to the animal level: Herbert Armstrong invoked in us a regression to the primal.
Dr. Schmidt adds:
It’s also prudent for a large organization to have mechanisms built into it to ensure that its smooth functioning is not too dependent on which individual is currently doing whatever executive duties need to be done. That’s where most of them fall down. It’s nice to have a competent, well-liked and respected leader in those cases where you need a leader at all. If you’re lucky enought to have one, it’s naturally a sad thing to lose him or her–just as it’s a sad thing to lose any competent, well-liked and respected person. If that loss is a violent one, the perpetrator is a crimnal and needs to be dealt with as such. But it’s not the end of the world, whether violent or not, and reacting to it as if it were is likely to do far more harm than good. Wouldn’t it be better to have a social structure strong and resilient enough to deal appropriately and propotionately with both the loss and the crime, and meanwhile make the necessary adjustment to go on with the rest of its business in a reasonably normal fashion?
In the case of cults, no. Cults are cults because they focus on one man (or woman or a small cadre of “leaders”) to excess. It’s best to let them die. Now it should not have escaped any of you what the lesson here is: While it is true that Herbert Armstrong was a “success” in the sense that he got all he wanted out of life, he was a failure in providing a lasting legacy because people were entirely focused on him. In the aftermath of his death, there has been a vacuum left. Those familiar with science knows the old adage that nature abhors a vacuum.
Unfortunately, the “alpha males” rushing in to fill the void, simply can’t fill it. Armstrongism is a spectacular failure with sociopathic nutjobs popping up nearly weekly like mushrooms on the lawn after a rainy day. The final words of Dr. Schmidt in his editorial should give us all pause, even if taken out of context:
And if that happens, our reaction to any problem with it is likely to be as extreme and destructive as with any of its human predecessors.
So those now involved with Armstrongism — particularly now that we have the robust example of Ronald Weinland, the prophet that failed — have a clear choice: Make your own choices and be responsible for them or pursue social evolutionary regression to follow the baboon alpha male leader.
by Mary Ellen Humphrey
Who can find a virtuous woman?
Proverbs 31: 10
The Women’s Meeting had begun exactly at 8 p.m.
Thirty-two women sat in a loosely formed circle in the
basement meeting room of the minister’s house. First
the minister’s wife stood up and everyone was suddenly
She held her Bible in front of her, briefly looked
around the room, and then started reading: “Romans 8
verses 16 and 17: The Spirit itself beareth witness with our
spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then
heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we
suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. My
name is Nancy and I am a Child of God,” she said, then sat
The elderly woman next to her rose. “My name is
Alice and I am a Child of God,” she said, then sat down.
Around the circle the process continued. “My name is
Faith and I profess to be a Child of God.” “My name is
Madeleine and I am a Child of God,” an older woman said.
A young girl, barely twelve sitting next to Madeleine stood
up and quickly said, “My name is Ruth and I profess to be a
Child of God.”
“My name is Rachel, and I profess to be a Child of
God.” She blushed and sat down as quickly as she’d stood.
“My name is Desiree and I am a Child of God,” a very thin,
frail-looking, elderly lady said in a squeaky high-pitched
voice. “My name is Laura…My name is Marianne….My
name is Gayla…My name is Esther…around it went, until
it came to another teenager who stood, “My name is
Kathleen and I profess to be a Child of God.” She glanced
around the room as if gauging the reaction and then sat
From the eldest, Desiree, to the youngest, Ruth, each
took their turn rising and announcing who they were and
sitting back down.
“Welcome to the women’s ministry,” Nancy said, still
sitting. We have been instructed to read Proverbs 31
tonight. Each woman took her Bible and turned to the
designated passage. Nancy started reading, “Who can find
a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies.”
Nancy nodded to Alice who read the next verse, and then
Nancy nodded to another woman and so on until they had
read the entire chapter.
“Does anyone have any questions?” Nancy asked.
Ruth, the precocious young girl with short naturally
curly blonde hair raised her hand. Nancy nodded to her.
“Did they sell girls back then?” Ruth asked.
“Excuse me?” Nancy said.
“It says her price is far above rubies. Does that mean
that girls were sold for rubies?”
Nancy frowned. “Well, in the Old Testament days life
was different. Sometimes the families of women received
dowries or compensation for losing their daughter when
she married. It was different back then.”
Ruth persisted. “But, does that mean it’s okay to sell
“If it’s in the Bible it must be okay,” Nancy answered
Madeleine, Ruth’s mother, pulled her daughter back
down to her seat and gave her a stern look.
“Shhhh…”.she whispered loudly. “You’ve asked enough
Nancy looked around. “Any other questions?”
Esther, a young recently married woman raised her
hand timidly. Nancy nodded to her.
“I am confused,” Esther said. “I was told that women
didn’t talk about their husbands’ service and yet I find a lot
of us seem to do that. What are the guidelines?”
Nancy studied her for a moment, and then answered
succinctly. “Women are to remain silent in The Church
and their husbands’ service is not to be discussed in any
way that might cause division or competition. We all
know that women tend to be very competitive, especially
in the services they seek. Not all are called to be leaders
or serve in higher roles.”
The young woman looked confused. “But I thought
seeking service was a godly thing and something we should
“Strive for silently,” Nancy stated. “We must not
gossip or criticize our husbands or any other man’s
service. Our whole role is to serve. Can you give me an
example of what is confusing you?”
Esther shifted nervously. “Well, at services, while
talking with Laura and Marianne, they were telling me how
their husbands were assigned to different tasks that didn’t
fit them and that they were sure it was a mistake, it would
be better to let them do the tasks that were more natural
and compatible to their talents and education.”
Nancy looked at Laura and Marianne who were sitting
beside each other, and now both women blushed
nervously. “You have asked a good question that allows
us to clarify gossip, Esther. It is not the place of Laura or
Marianne, or any of us to decide which position of service
our husbands hold. It is presumptuous of us to believe we
are wiser than those chosen by God to lead and make
these decisions. It is disrespect for authority and
disruptive to the good of The Work.”
Faith and Kathleen ritualistically studied their Bibles
every evening after dinner. They would spend half an hour
each morning in secluded prayer.
Rachel saw this and wanted to comply as well. She
reviewed her notes from Mr. Robert’s sermon on
Saturday. She looked up each scripture he’d quoted, and
he’d quoted many scriptures.
One struck her, I Timothy 4:1. It read: “Now the
Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some
shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits,
and doctrines of devils.” Rachel decided to pray about it,
asking God to help her keep the faith and protect her
from seducing spirits and doctrines of devils.
She was sure that other churches, some of the very
churches that her mother had dragged her to in the past,
were in fact such seducing spirits and devils. It was all
beginning to make sense, despite the teaching that one
could not understand The Truth without the Holy Spirit
which was only available to true Children of God, attained
when accepted by the ministers and baptized. Only adults
could be members.
Rachel hoped to soon be baptized so that she could
receive the Holy Spirit and then fully understand The
Truth. It was her all-consuming goal and she studied her
On Wednesday nights, Jeanette, another Deaconess,
came by to pick the three girls up for the women’s
ministry meeting. Jeanette was older than Audrey, also
single, the product of a divorce from a nonbeliever. She
had left her two teenage children with her ex-husband
when she joined The Church.
This was Rachel’s third such meeting having attended
while at Audrey’s. The topic was once again Proverbs 31.
While all of these scriptures were well-known to most of
those present, to Rachel they were wonderful revelations
of truth. They were jewels she treasured. She couldn’t
get enough. The more she learned, the more she desired
to know about The Truth.
When Esther asked the question about gossip last
week, Rachel took notice. She understood the harm of
gossip. She’d experienced it firsthand. Still, this was
different. What did the minister’s wife mean, women
were competitive? And what was this about service?
Were there roles specified for the brethren? Rachel was
curious and eager.
That Saturday, Mr. Critchett once again gave the main
morning sermon. He raged on about the roles of service
in the church. An hour into his sermon he announced that
two sisters had been suspended for gossiping about their
husbands. It was Laura and Marianne. Rachel was
astonished and puzzled. She realized that someone, most
likely Mrs. Roberts must have told the ministers about
their comments at the women’s meeting. She looked at
Faith and then at Kathleen who sat quietly and somberly.
“What does that mean, suspended?” she whispered.
Mrs. Andrews shushed them.
Faith whispered back, “it means they can’t attend
services for a while.”
Faith shrugged. “Usually three or six months,
depending on the severity of their bad attitude.”
All the women were somber that Sabbath. Their
usual bustle was gone. The hugs were a little harder and
more silent. It was as if they didn’t dare to speak lest they
say the wrong thing. Rachel struggled to understand this.
Pastor Roberts spoke in the afternoon about the role
of women in the church. Roberts pointed out that false
churches are referred to as whores in the scriptures. It
was Eve who seduced Adam leading to expulsion from the
Garden of Eden. But there was hope. It was faith. Faith
in God and his Truth would save women. Rachel was
determined to have such faith. She was determined not to
be one of these wicked women.
Roberts lecture continued. Women were not
allowed to speak in the church. They must have long hair
as a veil to cover their heads. They must obey their
husbands who are the head of the wife. He quoted
scriptures that assured that women would be saved in
childbirth if they were faithful.
After the service ended, Rachel asked, “What does
that mean that women are saved in childbirth?”
“You’d better be faithful since medical care is not
allowed,” Faith answered.
“Midwives are okay,” Kathleen added. “But it’s hard
to find someone. They don’t like to do home deliveries.”
“There is a doctor some of the brethren use,” Faith
said. “But he has come under scrutiny since Marianne’s
“She began to hemorrhage…they had to rush her to
the hospital. She didn’t want to go, but the doctor
insisted. He isn’t too popular I guess and since then he’s
been reluctant to deliver other babies at home.”
“Jeanette has helped several women,” Faith pointed
out. “She was a nurse before finding The Truth. She had
to give that up of course, being that we don’t believe in
“I never read about this in the literature,” Rachel said.
“Of course not. We shouldn’t be telling you all this.
You should hear it from the ministers. They know when
people are able to handle such information,” Kathleen said.
“I can handle it.”
“I’m not sure I can,” Faith answered.
by Mary Ellen Humphrey
So the last shall be first, and the first last:
for many be called, but few chosen.
Audrey was as excited for the girls as they were
themselves. They’d found their own apartment. She
wanted to hear all about it. “Thirty-five dollars? That
sounds a little steep for a one-bedroom, third floor
“Penthouse,” Faith said. “We have our very own
“And with any luck, we’ll all have jobs next week,
too,” Rachel said.
Randy was sitting beside her on the couch. “There’s
no such thing as luck,” he said.
“What?” She looked at him puzzled.
Audrey explained that The Church doesn’t believe in
luck. It’s like gambling. Nothing is luck. Especially if
you’re a Christian. There’s a plan and purpose to
everything and it would be blasphemous to relegate
anything to simple luck. Better to be thankful to God for
providing the item.
“Oh,” Rachel said. “That’s very interesting. I’d never
heard that before. It isn’t in the Bible studies I did. I’m
sure I would have remembered that.”
“There’s a lot of stuff not in the Bible course,” Faith
“Yeah,” Kathleen added. “Lots of stuff—lots of good
The three girls were so excited they could hardly
sleep. They whispered and giggled late into the night. The
next morning they were dressed and ready for church
early. They thanked Audrey for her hospitality and headed
to Manchester, talking incessantly all the way there.
The official greeter once again hugged all three girls
welcoming them to Sabbath services. He didn’t pay any
special attention to Rachel anymore. She guessed she was
being accepted as one of the flock which was a nice feeling.
She belonged. Even though she didn’t like the hugs so
much, she liked the sense of belonging.
There were lots of hugs. As people got to know
Rachel, she was greeted by everyone, even the children,
with a hug. Sometimes even a kiss. Always a warm smile
and welcoming gesture. Women were the biggest
offenders. They hugged each other as if they’d been apart
for years, when it had only been a few days. Those who
lived close enough saw each other on Wednesday nights—
Women’s Meeting night. Rachel had attended her first last
week while staying at Audrey’s. From now on, she’d be
able to go every Wednesday night.
Of course, the official greeters hugged everyone at all
services. Rachel now understood their role went beyond
greeting. They were also screening to make sure no
uninvited people attended.
“Let’s go tell Wilma the good news,” Faith suggested
before the sermon started.
They approached the young woman who smiled
weakly at the three excited young girls. They began to tell
her about their apartment all at once. She waved her
hand. “Slow down. I can’t understand you all talking at
the same time.” The girls laughed. Faith explained what
had happened, how they had found an apartment on the
third floor–a penthouse apartment, and how they each
had jobs at a local manufacturing firm.
“That is great,” Wilma said. “Congratulations. It
sounds so exciting. I hope everything works out for you.
I wish I could join you.”
The three girls stood awkwardly. Kathleen glanced at
Faith. But Faith didn’t have the appropriate response. She
“We wish you could, too,” Rachel said.
“Thanks,” Wilma smiled. “Thanks,” she whispered
The sermon that morning was given by the local
pastor, Mr. Roberts. He was higher in rank in the ministry
than Mr. Critchett. He was his boss, actually, and usually
gave the first sermon of the Sabbath service. Most of Mr.
Roberts time was spent working with the two smaller
churches in Vermont and Maine, which weren’t large
enough yet to have their own full-time minister. This left
Mr. Critchett to tend to affairs in New Hampshire.
Mrs. Roberts, Nancy, whom Rachel had met that first
day she attended services, also led the Women’s Meetings
on Wednesday nights.
They had two children, James who was eight and
Justine who was eleven. These were the children Rachel
encountered her first service.
“The Roberts are both graduates of the college in
California and have been in the region for only a year,”
Faith explained to Rachel
“Faith is supposed to go to that college,” Kathleen
Kathleen was surprised by this reaction. “You aren’t
honored by that? Geez, I’d love to be chosen to attend.”
“Don’t swear!” It was Mrs. Andrews who was sitting
in front of the girls.
Kathleen blushed. Faith went on to tell Rachel, “Most
pastors and elders stayed in a church area for a few years
and then are moved to another location.”
“We like Mr. Roberts. I hope they don’t relocate him
too soon,” Kathleen said.
“Not soon enough for Mr. Critchett!” Faith said.
Mrs. Andrews turned around and gave them all a dirty
When she turned back around, the three girls sat
quietly. They might get away with such talk now but if
they were actually Children of God, they could be severely
reprimanded for it. Women had been suspended for such
Faith whispered to Rachel, “Mr. Roberts will be
more interesting than Mr. Critchett,” she said.
Kathleen nodded, rolling her eyes.
After the hymns were finished and the prayer given, a
young man approached the podium to give the
sermonette. He had red hair and a ruddy complexion, was
thin and athletic. Rachel noticed Kathleen straighten up in
her chair and listen closely. She glanced at Faith who
nodded and whispered, “She has a crush on him.”
“Who is he?” Rachel asked. “He’s Joel.”
Kathleen frowned at them and Faith giggled. Mrs.
Andrews was sitting in front of them and turned around
and gave them a dirty look.
Faith looked down, embarrassed. Rachel looked in
another direction and Kathleen just ignored the old lady.
When Alice turned back around, Kathleen looked at Faith
and Rachel and rolled her eyes. The girls stifled another
round of giggles.
“Shhhh,” Kathleen whispered. “I want to hear him.”
Faith nodded to Rachel a see, I-told-you-so look.
More hymns and then the main sermon began. Mr.
Roberts started with a question, “What is Faith?”
He looked at the audience with confidence. “Do you
have faith?” he asked. “Turn to I Timothy 3:13,” he said.
Pages rustled. He waited for a moment, then read the
scripture: “But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and
worse, deceiving and being deceived. But continue thou in
the things which thou has learned and has been assured of,
knowing of whom thou hast learned them. And that from
a child thou has known the holy scriptures, which are able
to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in
Mr. Roberts explained that faith was required for
salvation. He explained that they were chosen, a chosen
few, who had this wonderful gift to understand the
scriptures. Others were deceived by evil men, seducers,
religions that sounded like the True Church but were
actually clever counterfeits. He explained that the world
would only get worse and worse and that faith was needed
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the
evidence of things not seen,” he said, reading Hebrews
11:1. “Do you have faith?” he asked the audience again.
Two hours were spent on the subject. Rachel was
glued to his words. She was hearing The Truth. The
Truth. It was soothing to her ears and to her heart. She
was sure she did indeed have faith. That was what had led
her here, to God’s true church. Her faith and her prayers.
Otherwise, she was sure; she would have given up long
Pastor Roberts turned to the Book of Revelation,
chapter two, verse thirteen: “I know thy works, and
where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou
holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in
those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who
was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.” Verse
seventeen: “he that hath an ear, let him hear what the
Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh
will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a
white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which
no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.”
And verse nineteen: “I know thy works, and charity, and
service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the
last to be more than the first. (Verse twenty)
Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because
thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a
prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit
fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. (Verse
23) And I will kill her children with death; and all the
churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the
reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you
according to your works.” Roberts explained that God
knew their hearts and how dedicated they really were to
He turned to James chapter two. He started at the
first verse, “My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord
Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.”
(Verse 5) “Harkin, my beloved brethren, Hath not God
chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the
kingdom which he had promised to them that love him?”
(Verse 14) “What doth it profit, my brethren, though
a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith
save him?” (Verse 17) “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is
dead, being alone.” (Verse 19) “Thou believest that there is
one God’ thou doest well: the devils also believe, and
tremble.” (Verse 20) But wilt thou know, O vain man, that
faith without works is dead?” (Verse 24) “Ye see then how
that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.”
And finally, verse 26, “For as the body without the spirit is
dead, so faith without works is dead also.”
Pastor Roberts explained to the congregation their
duty to support the Work of God. He chided those who
claimed to have faith, but didn’t do The Work. “You must
give until it hurts,” he said. “Show God your faith by your
Lunch was sandwiches and soft drinks in the antiroom.
The three girls decided to take a walk. It was a
glorious late spring day. Rachel was excited by the
sermon. She’d never heard anything like it before. She
eagerly discussed it with Faith and Kathleen.
“Wait till she hears about the Place of Safety,” Faith
said to Kathleen.
Faith left with her parents at the end of the day, so
she could pack her things and come to the apartment the
next day, Sunday. Kathleen went home with her mother,
too. Each girl was assigned to bring whatever they could
find to fill the apartment, beds, dishes, linen, mostly
donated by their parents and some of the brethren.
Rachel avoided her mother, but got a chance to speak
to her younger brother briefly. “How’s everything?” she
“Not that you care,” he said. He instantly looked hurt
“Of course I care,” she said, looking him in the eye.
“We found an apartment,” she told him, changing the
subject. “We’re moving in tomorrow. Maybe you could
come and visit sometime, if you want.”
The young man looked as if he would start to cry at
any instant. She didn’t know what to say to him. She gave
him a hug. When her mother started their way, Rachel
left. She could hear her mother’s accusing voice as she
walked away. She tried in vain not to be embarrassed.
That night as Rachel lay awake, her last night at
Audrey’s, her mind raced with thoughts about her new
life. The new information—The Truth—was so
wonderful. Her new friends, Faith and Kathleen, and
especially Audrey. It all felt so good. She could hardly
wait for morning, which turned out to come more quickly
than most as she soon fell asleep.
Kathleen arrived early with her mother and her
mother’s station wagon. Rachel put her suitcase in the
back and jumped in. They both waved to Audrey as she
watched them drive off. “I can bring lunch,” Audrey called
after them, but they didn’t hear her.
Kathleen’s mother had given her a full size bed and
box spring that was tied on top of the vehicle. She’d also
given them a set of sheets and two blankets, some odd
dishes and a few towels.
Rachel watched Kathleen and her mother interact in
the front seat. Kathleen’s mother spoke erratically, as if
her thoughts came faster than her words. Sometimes she
paused as if to allow her mind to catch up. Despite
Kathleen’s complaints, Rachel knew that Kathleen’s
mother loved her. She smiled. It was reassuring to her
that a mother could love her daughter. She hoped
someday she’d find that wonderful experience.
It didn’t take long to unload the station wagon.
Several of the young men and the Deacon who lived
nearby showed up just as the girls were struggling to get
the bedding up the two flights of stairs. They had the task
completed in no time.
Faith arrived with her father a little after eleven. She
had also brought a bed—twin size, and a bureau. Her
parents had thrown in two lawn chairs, two old lamps,
some dishes, and some pantry staples. They had bath
soap, dish soap, laundry soap, and cleaning stuff thanks to
Soon Audrey arrived carrying a box of sandwiches and
a cooler of soft drinks. She included some cookies and
potato chips. The girls gave Audrey the grand tour. She
eyed the apartment doubtfully. The girls were unfazed.
The young men and Deacon left, as did Faith’s father
and Kathleen’s mother. They had other official church
work to do. Audrey joined the girls for lunch. They sat
on the floor in the living room where the mattresses were
temporarily set. You could hear the laughter down the
two flights of stairs and out onto the street.
“Oh, I almost forgot,” Audrey said as she reached into
her handbag. “This came for you. I had to wait until
sunset to give it to you.” She handed Rachel a letter.
Rachel saw that it was from her high school. It was a
large manila envelop and when she opened it there was a
hand written note from the principal. He said they had
wondered what happened to her and tried to find a
forwarding address. Enclosed was her high school
diploma. Tears filled Rachel’s eyes.
“Guess you must have completed enough course
work before you moved,” Audrey said.
Rachel smiled. “I can’t believe it. I graduated.”
Monday morning Faith dressed and left for work at 7
a.m. She encouraged both Rachel and Kathleen to come in
as early as they could to see about a job. The two girls
were there at eight. Kathleen went into the personnel
office first. She came out fifteen minutes later with a big
smile on her face. “I can start tomorrow,” she told
Rachel. “He said to send you in.”
Rachel went into the office. A thirtyish man sat
behind an old metal desk. He waved to a chair for her to
sit down. She complied. “So, you want to work for
Penacook Components Assembly?”
She nodded. “Have you graduated from high school?”
She blushed. “Yes.”
“Are you planning to go on to college or anything in
Rachel hadn’t thought about that. Fall seemed so far
away. But she did want to go to college. She’d always
wanted to. It wasn’t an option. Her hesitation raised his
“We don’t want to invest in training anyone who isn’t
planning to work long term.” He looked at her sternly.
“I don’t plan to go anywhere,” Rachel said.
“Can you start tomorrow, too, with your friend?”
Rachel’s eyes widened. “Yes,” she said. “Yes, of
“Good. See you then.”
by Mary Ellen Humphrey
Beloved, believe not every spirit,
but try the spirits whether they are of God:
because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
I John 4:1
Rachel could hardly wait for the next Saturday service.
The idea of living on her own was not only exciting, but
a way to escape the nightmare that had been her life for as
long as she could remember. When she told her mother
what she was thinking, she expected another blow-up. To
her surprise, her mother had simply shrugged. “Fine,”
she’d said. “I really am anxious for you to go. There’s no
reason for you to stay with me now.”
Now, Rachel thought, now that she’d soon be
eighteen and the child support checks would stop. Now
that she’d taken her away from her father, kept her from
graduating from high school, taken everything away from
her. Now her mother was done with her.
Rachel felt tightness in her chest. Any words she
wanted to say were stuck deep inside. It had happened
before. Unable to speak. Dizzy. Faint. Rachel retreated
to her room and took her white Bible from the stand next
to her bed. She turned to her favorite verse and began to
read it. I John 4:7-8: Beloved, let us love one another, for love
is of God, and everyone that loveth is born of God, and knoweth
God. He that loveth not knoweth no God, for God is love.
These words calmed her, soothed her and gave her
strength. She told herself, I’ll soon be born of God, and I’ll
soon know God’s love. She remembered her grandmother
who’d given it to her on her twelfth birthday. A large tear
fell down her cheek. “I miss you Gram,” she whispered,
holding the Bible close to her chest.
Rachel’s older brother left to return to her father that
Saturday morning before she and her mother and younger
brother headed to Manchester for church services. Rachel
cried during the trip as she sat in the back seat. She would
miss him. Part of her wanted to go back, too. But her
mother would never allow that. And now that she’d found
the True Church, she had to stay. God was calling her.
Her mother glared ahead. as she drove, her hands
tapping angrily on the steering wheel. She’d been in one of
her moods all day. Her younger brother sat in the front,
looking worried, his jaw clenched, his eyes bloodshot. It
was a long, silent trip. Just before they arrived, her
mother exploded, “I don’t understand you kids!” she
yelled. “I do all this for you. I bring you to God’s True
Church, and you don’t obey me. You don’t respect your
mother. I don’t understand you!”
Rachel recognized that crazed look. Despite the
many times her mother had done it, she still cringed in
fear. It was the power of her mothers’ animosity that
always shocked her. How could her own mother hate her
so? Rachel was convinced there must be something
terribly wrong with herself. It must be her fault—not her
mother’s. No one else’s mother treated them this way.
She’d never seen another mother like this and she’d
watched closely the mother-daughter interactions of
others trying to figure it out.
Her brother glanced her a hateful, why’d-you-upsether-
again look. Rachel looked down, hoping they would
soon arrive. She knew there was nothing she could say to
change her mother’s mood. She just hoped that she
wouldn’t sabotage her plan out of spite.
Rachel kept her hand on the door handle ready to
jump out. Her mother drove too fast, missed a stop sign,
nearly crashed into another car. Her brother clenched his
fists and his jaw. His whole body tightened like a giant
knot. Rachel thought he was surely suffering the most
harm from her mother, even though he was her favorite.
Look what she’s doing to him, Rachel thought sadly. He quit
school. He works at whatever she tells him to do during the
day. He resents me and our older brother. He hates our
father. He’s just plain messed up. She has messed him up so
As soon as the car stopped in the parking lot, Rachel
jumped out and ran into the building without a word. She
was eager to find her two new friends. They were waiting
for her, too.
“What took so long?” Faith asked.
“It’s been a tough ride,” Rachel answered.
“Well, come on. We’re supposed to counsel with the
minister today. What did your mother say?” Kathleen
“I can move out anytime,” Rachel said, not mentioning
that she had her suitcase and meager possessions in the
back of her mother’s station wagon. Whatever happened
today, her mother had made it very clear, and she wasn’t
taking her back home with her to Standish.
The three girls were excited. Jordan, the large official
greeter man joked with Faith and Kathleen. Rachel stood
off a little. But he reached for her and did his big
handshake deal again and pulled her close. He also hugged
both Faith and Kathleen. They didn’t seem to mind.
Rachel tried to smile.
The three girls were led into a small counseling room
off to the side of the main meeting hall. There were only a
few minutes before the service would start, so the
minister asked them to come back after the sermon.
All through the sermon Rachel was distracted. Even
though she’d often dreamed of running away now that she
was really going to be on her own she was frightened. She
looked around the room. These people will be my new
family, she thought. Anything will be better than what I have
The sermon this week was delivered by another man.
He didn’t have the charisma like Mr. Driscoll. Faith
explained to Rachel that Mr. Driscoll was the Pastor. He
oversaw several churches and only came to Manchester
occasionally. Today he was in Boston and their speaker
was Mr. Critchett, the Local Elder.
Mr. Critchett talked about Satan and the bad
influences of the world. “The World” was a different
concept to these folks. Rachel sensed something was bad
about the world.
“Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born
of God,” Mr. Critchett quoted as everyone turned to the
book of I John. He continued, “By this we know that we
love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his
He admonished the audience, “Are you a Child of
God? Do you love God and keep his commandments?”
He quoted from I John 4, “believe not every spirit, but
try the spirits whether they are of God: because many
false prophets are gone out into the world.”
Critchett explained there could only be one True
Church. There are so many diverse denominations, he
said, that teach different things. They can’t all be right, he
explained. Only one can be right—only one can be the
True Church. How do you know which one? You must
try the spirits, he explained.
The truth was tested by the revelations of God’s
Apostle, Russell W. Sherburne. “You are privileged to be
chosen as a Child of God. What are you doing with that
privilege and that honor?” He was demanding, almost
accusing the audience.
Rachel felt uncomfortable. This was the man they
would be counseling with after the service. She noticed
that Faith and Kathleen didn’t seem fazed at all.
When the sermon ended and it was time for more
hymns Rachel whispered to Faith, “When do they take up
“Oh, we don’t do that,” Faith explained. “Members
tithe and give special offerings but not at regular services.”
The three girls hurried to be first in line for counseling
when the last prayer was given. Mrs. Andrews was ahead
of them in line. She gave the girls a disgusted look.
“What’s bugging her?” Kathleen asked.
“It’s Rachel’s skirt—see how short it is,” Faith pointed
Rachel suddenly felt embarrassed. She hadn’t noticed
the women and girls wore their dresses well below their
knees. She’d thought her skirt was modest. It came just
to her knees. It was in fact longer than the current fashion
because she’d already let the hem down as far as it would
go. “I didn’t know that,” Rachel said, tugging at her skirt
to get it as low as possible.
“Don’t worry,” Faith said. “It’s not a big deal.”
Mr. Critchett, the Local Elder, sat behind a table and
motioned for the three girls to sit in front. He studied
them for an awkward moment before speaking. When
Faith began to say something he held up his hand to
indicate not to talk. “I know why you’re here,” he said.
“Your father told me.”
Rachel glanced at Kathleen, who sat quietly. The two
other girls looked expectantly at the man, hopeful he
wouldn’t dash their plans. “You know that having your
own place means you will have to be responsible, as
Faith and Kathleen nodded. He looked at Rachel.
“And you,” he said, “you are new to The Church. Are you
going to bring your worldly ways to these two Christian
Rachel was insulted. “I study my Bible,” she said
humbly. “I plan to become a Child of God soon.”
He grinned. “That so.”
“Where do you plan to live?” he asked the girls.
The two started talking at the same time. “We have
pooled our money,” Faith said.
“My mother said I could use her car this week to find
an apartment,” Kathleen said.
“You have to find jobs,” he said.
“I have working papers,” Kathleen said.
“I graduated from high school last week,” Faith said.
“We should be able to find work without much trouble.”
He looked at Rachel. “I have always had a job,” she
said. “I’m sure I can find one here, too.”
“And what about men?” he demanded while, looking
at each girl intently. “Are you planning to entertain men in
your new apartment?”
“Of course not,” they said in unison.
“Humph!” His look said more than his words. “You
are not allowed to have any men in your apartment at any
time for any reason. Is that understood?”
“If it were up to me, I would never allow this,” he
said. “Mr. Driscoll has given his okay and I take my orders
from him. But I will be watching you. Women should be
under direct supervision. If you step out of line or give me
any reason, any reason at all, you will be sent right back
“We won’t,” Faith said.
“Since your parents have all said it was okay with
them as long as you continue to attend church functions,
and the Pastor has agreed, then you may find your own
place. You will be on probation. If there is any
problem,” he said, “ANY problem at all, you’ll have to go
“I brought my stuff,” Rachel said.
“On the Sabbath?” the Elder stated. He shook his
head. “Work is not allowed on the Sabbath. You have a
lot to learn, young lady.”
“I have arranged for Audrey Sinclair to help you. You
can stay with her while you find your own place. But
make sure you don’t impose on her. You must pay your
own way like adults, or it’s home you go. Got that?”
They all nodded.
“Who’s Audrey?” Rachel asked as they left the
“She’s a Deaconess. You’ll like her,” Kathleen said.
“Come on, I’ll introduce you.”
“I don’t think Mr. Critchett likes me.” Rachel said as
they gathered their stuff.
“He doesn’t like any women,” Faith said.
Kathleen nudged her arm. “That’s not true, Faith. He
loves his wife and daughter.”
“Yeah? Why does he always pick on women? How
many of the men has he publicly chastised? And how
come the young men can have their own apartments but
he puts us through the third-degree?”
“He’s chastised plenty of men,” Kathleen stated
doubtfully. “But if you talk like that, and someone hears
you, it will be the end of our plan. Cool it.”
“Okay,” Faith said. “I’m sorry. It’s just that I
overheard my parents talking about Mr. Critchett, and
they said he doesn’t like dealing with women.” She
Audrey was the woman who sat at the reception
table. She was friendly. Her dark eyes sparkled. Her hair
was pinned back in a tight bun disguising its actual nearwaist
length. She wore dark colors, a long dress and
The girls approached the table. She was expecting
them. “When can you come?” she asked with a southern
“I can come today,” Rachel said.
Audrey looked surprised. “Well, that’s fine. I haven’t
set up your bedroom yet, but if you don’t mind the couch,
you’re welcome. Wade has to bunk with his brother
while you’re at our apartment.”
Wade was the oldest of Audrey’s three sons. Faith
and Kathleen explained to Rachel that Audrey was a
Deaconess, which meant she was privileged to serve. She
had to leave her husband when she became a Child of
God. It was a divorce and remarriage thing. The Church
didn’t allow anyone more than one marriage, except in the
case of death.
Rachel immediately liked Audrey. She was friendly,
open, and honest. When Rachel fetched her suitcase
from her mother’s station wagon, Audrey asked where the
rest of her stuff was. “That’s it,” Rachel said.
“That’s all you have?” Audrey asked, eyeing the small,
gray, battered suitcase.
Rachel shrugged. “We moved so many times, I just
kept less and less. It’s everything I need.”
“Well, come on. Let’s get you settled.”
Kathleen said, “I’ll see you on Monday morning. We’ll
start looking for our apartment and jobs.”
Faith agreed. “I’m taking a bus down. My folks will
move my stuff once we find a place. This is so exciting,”
she said. The girls hugged good-bye.
Rachel watched as her mother and younger brother
drove off. Neither had said good-bye to her. She figured
her brother didn’t want to upset her mother and didn’t
hold it against him. She hoped he’d be all right. She got
into the back seat of Audrey’s station wagon next to her
youngest son, Randy. He was five. He gave her a big
smile. She smiled back.
Audrey had prepared a wonderful dinner that was
waiting for them when they arrived. She had invited some
of the widows from The Church, too, including Alice. By
the time everyone left and the dishes were cleaned up, the
three boys had gone to bed. As Audrey pulled out the
sofa-bed, she said, “This might not be too comfortable, but
we’ll move Wade out of his bedroom tomorrow and you
can have some privacy.”
“That’s okay,” Rachel said. “I hate to make him move
out of his room.” She had noticed that Wade was sullen
during the evening and seemed to be watching people,
Wade was Audrey’s oldest son, nearly fifteen. But he
seemed much older. His voice was deep, well past “the
change.” And his demeanor was always quiet, thoughtful.
He seemed wise beyond his years. Perhaps he’d become
“the man of the house” and felt the burden of worrying
for his mother and two younger brothers. Perhaps he
missed his father who sounded like a very nice person.
Rachel suddenly missed her own father, wondering
what he was doing, was her brother okay, did they miss
her, too. She returned her thoughts to the present and
surmised Wade didn’t appreciate giving up his room to her
and her two friends, even though it would be for only a
short time, she hoped.
“He’s used to it,” Audrey said. “It’s part of the deal.”
“He gets his own room when it’s not needed for
brethren. Otherwise he’d always share a bedroom with
his brothers. Part of my job is to provide a place for
brethren in need. The church pays the rent here. He
Rachel wondered if he understood. Or maybe he
tolerated it. Maybe he didn’t like it at all, and she wouldn’t
blame him. But that was none of her business.
After the bed was made up, Audrey sat down with a
glass of wine and the two chatted until quite late. Rachel
was curious about this outgoing woman. “How did you
get here in New Hampshire?” Rachel asked when Audrey
said she was from Louisiana.
Audrey explained that she had been married briefly
before meeting her husband, the father of her three sons.
Even though that first marriage had lasted only a few
months, it none-the-less counted, and she was living in sin
with her second husband. He didn’t understand any of
this, of course, not being a Child of God. He was
heartbroken when the church moved her and their three
sons from Louisiana to New Hampshire.
“It’s a test of my faith,” Audrey said. “I know that
God will someday get me and my husband back together.
My husband promised to wait for me no matter how long
Rachel admired Audrey’s strength and faith. She
wondered how she could have left a man she obviously
loved so much.
“I know he will wait,” Audrey said. “It’s only been
three years. When we are re-united, it will be better than
before. God will reward us. I’m hoping that my husband
will also be chosen as a Child of God. That’s my prayer,
every day, morning and night.”
Audrey took another sip of wine. Rachel noted that
she’d had several glasses over the evening and during
dinner. “We left three years ago, but God promises to
reward the faithful,” Audrey said. “I have to prove myself
as a faithful servant of God.”
“You’re a Deaconess?” Rachel asked. “What does
“It’s the highest honor for women in the church,”
Audrey explained. I was ordained a year after we arrived.
My responsibilities include helping with women’s needs in
the church, and providing hospitality for visiting brethren.
I do a lot of work with the elderly widows like Mrs.
Rachel frowned at the name. Audrey laughed. “Alice
is one of my more challenging charges.”
“Where are the families of the widows?” Rachel
“Most of them are alone or abandoned. Some of
them can’t understand why their mother would join this
church. If you ask me, it’s most often about the money.”
“The money?” Rachel asked.
“Yes. The widows have their wills changed to leave
everything to The Church. That’s part of the deal. They
get cared for in the church for the rest of their lives.
That’s why they are relocated here, so we can take care of
them. And keep their greedy relatives away from them,
“They leave all their money to The Church?”
“It’s God’s will to do The Work.”
Monday morning Kathleen arrived a little before nine.
The two girls giggled a lot. Audrey seemed pleased,
feeding them muffins and juice. Faith would arrive at the
bus station at eleven. Until then, Kathleen and Rachel
scoured the newspaper looking at apartment ads. Most
were too expensive. Between them they had about $75.
It would have to last until their first paycheck, whenever
that would be.
After exhausting the apartment ads, they surveyed the
help wanted ads. Kathleen circled a few.
“I brought my working papers,” Kathleen said. “What
about you? You need them if you don’t have a high school
diploma and you’re under eighteen.”
“I’ll be eighteen in July,” Rachel said. “We moved a
few weeks before graduation.”
“Write to the school. They’ll send you the working
papers,” Kathleen offered.
“Why did you move so near to graduation?” Audrey
Rachel shrugged. She didn’t want to talk about it.
Audrey glanced at Rachel. “There’s stationary in the
desk drawer,” Audrey said. “Go ahead and write to your
school. The sooner you get the papers, the better.”
Rachel drafted a note to her old school principle. She
asked for working papers and gave Audrey’s mailing
address. She took out some change to pay for the stamp
but Audrey protested. They mailed the letter on the way
to the bus station.
Faith had brought a suitcase which was stored in the
baggage compartment under the bus so they had to wait
until everyone had exited the bus to retrieve it. They
were anxious to start their search.
At the end of Monday, they returned to Audrey’s
place. None of the prospective apartments had panned
out. Landlords didn’t rent to single girls.
The job market hadn’t fared any better, but there
were still several contacts they hadn’t been able to reach
yet. Only a little discouraged, they told Audrey about
their day, helping set the table for dinner.
Audrey’s three boys didn’t say much when the girls
were around. The two older ones scowled and
complained constantly to their mother. They resented
having to give up their space during the visit. Randy, who
was barely five, seemed to take to the girls. He would
often crawl in between them while they talked. He
especially took a liking to Rachel. “You’re my girlfriend,”
Audrey laughed. “You’re too young for a girlfriend,”
“I want to marry Rachel,” he asserted.
Rachel was embarrassed.
Audrey laughed again. “You’re too young,” she
restated. “Why don’t you go play with your brothers and
leave the girls alone.”
Randy reluctantly left the room. “He tends to get
attached to people,” Audrey explained. “It’s innocent
enough. He just likes you.”
The next day’s search for work and an apartment
didn’t turn out any better and the girls were beginning to
worry. Would they find a place? Would they find jobs?
As instructed by Mr. Critchett, they were paying Audrey
ten dollars a week to help with the costs. She protested,
but reluctantly accepted the money. At the end of the
first week, they were left with $65. They were
determined not to give up.
Thursday night, just as dinner ended, there was a
knock at the door. It was Mr. Critchett. He looked at the
three girls and asked Audrey to leave so he could talk to
them. He didn’t look happy.
“Why are you still here?” he demanded.
“We are still looking for an apartment,” Faith
answered. “It’s more difficult than we anticipated.”
“But we have some leads,” Kathleen added. “It won’t
be much longer.”
The man turned to Rachel. His face was hard. His
eyes dark. “And you?”
Rachel felt her stomach tighten. “Uh, I’m trying, too,”
“Your mother told me about you,” he said, accusation
in his tone. “She said you are very selfish. She said you
are lazy. She said you are trouble. She said you’d take
advantage of Mrs. Sinclair.”
“I, I, we paid Audrey,” Rachel said, surprised and hurt.
Her mother. She should have known she’d never be free
of her mother, even when she got her own place.
“You have one week,” he said, turning to the door.
“If you aren’t out of here in one week, you’re all going
He opened the door and looked back to the girls.
“Tell Audrey to send Wade out to the car. I need to talk
to him.” He slammed the door.
The girls looked at each other. Rachel bit her lip
holding back the tears. “Hey, don’t worry. We’ll find
something,” Faith said.
Kathleen sat next to Rachel. “We should pray about
it. That’s what we did wrong. We didn’t pray and ask
God to help up us find the right place and the right jobs.”
“I told you he doesn’t like women,” Faith whispered.
Kathleen glared at her friend.
“I’ll go tell Audrey to send Wade outside,” Faith said.
They heard Audrey call Wade from his bedroom. “I
don’t want to go talk to him!” Wade yelled. They heard
Audrey’s muffled voice. “Come on, Wade. Don’t act like
that. He just wants to talk to you. That’s an honor for
the minister of God to talk to you.”
Wade passed by the girls with a hard look on his face.
He glanced back at his mother. “You don’t have a clue, do
you Mother?” he said.
“Go!” Audrey said firmly, pointing outside.
The girls told Audrey what Mr. Critchett had said,
that they should be out by the end of the week. They
promised they would be.
“I enjoy having you,” Audrey said. “I don’t want you
to feel pressured to leave, but we must obey the
Neither girl mentioned Mr. Critchett’s comments to
Rachel about her mother. They seemed to understand.
Wade didn’t return for nearly two hours. Everyone
had gone to bed. Rachel heard him close the door and
walk to his room. She still didn’t fall asleep very quickly,
even in a safe place. Her mind was in turmoil over the
minister’s comments. Lazy. Selfish. Trouble. Was that
what her new friends were going to think of her? She
decided her only hope was if her mother tired of this
church as she had so many others and moved on.
Meanwhile, she would try to hang on. Knowing her
mother, it shouldn’t take too much longer.
Friday night, Rachel was impressed with the
preparations Audrey made for the Sabbath. All the food
was cooked in advance for both the dinner meal and
Saturdays. Clothes were laid out for services. The
television was off. Church literature was on the table to
be read by Audrey and her sons as they discussed God’s
laws. Even Faith and Kathleen seemed more religious.
Rachel was beginning to understand the ways of The
Church. You weren’t supposed to work on the Sabbath
which was Friday night at sunset until Saturday night at
sunset. You studied your Bible and that required, of
course, the guidance of the Church literature. You were
supposed to pray. No work was allowed so everything
was prepared in advance. It was a lot of effort for the
women. Even the table was set for tomorrow night’s meal
after the two services, morning and afternoon.
The three girls were excited, too, because Friday had
been more successful. Kathleen had found a promising ad
for a “Penthouse Apartment” that fit their budget and
when she called, the landlady was willing to rent to single
girls. And Faith had found a factory that hired her
instantly. She would start Monday morning.
The apartment was within walking distance from
where Faith worked. She said the personnel director told
her there were more openings and to send her two
friends right in. The pay was $1.35 per hour, and if all
three worked, they would have plenty of money. Things
were definitely looking better.
It was getting late, though, and they’d have only
enough time to see the apartment before the Sabbath
started at sundown. So they piled into Kathleen’s
mother’s station wagon and headed towards Penacook,
NH. Penthouse sounded so nice. The landlady was
standing in front of the old building when the girls arrived.
Kathleen introduced herself. The woman eyed the other
two girls, turned to the door and said, “This way.”
They went up two flights of stairs. The Penthouse
Apartment was actually a glorified attic. There were
slanted walls with two windows at each gable end. But it
had a bedroom, a living room, kitchen and bath. The girls
didn’t notice the windows were wide open and it was still
very warm. The price in the paper was $25. They could
“We’ll take it,” the girls said after a brief survey.
“Great,” the woman replied. “I need a week’s rent in
advance, and you can move in as soon as you want. That
will be $35.00.”
“Thirty-five? The ad says twenty-five,” Kathleen said.
“That is the price for two people. There are three of
you. It costs more, you know, for utilities and stuff.”
Kathleen looked at Faith. They only had $65.00.
“You can pay me the deposit now,” the landlady said,
“and the first week’s rent when you move in.”
“Can we move in on Sunday?”
“Sure. Just bring the money. I’ll meet you here with
the key. Nine o’clock?”
“Great,” Kathleen said, handing the woman thirty-five
“Where are we going to get the extra five dollars?”
“Not to worry,” Faith said. “My folks will lend it to
by Mary Ellen Humphrey
But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in
me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his
neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.
Manchester, New Hampshire that following
Rachel couldn’t believe it. She was here. She was
actually here attending the services of the church she’d
listened to so many times on the radio. These were God’s
people. This was God’s true church. She couldn’t believe
The Odd Fellows Hall was an old brick building on
Hanover Street in Manchester, New Hampshire. The
church met on the fourth floor in an old and
uncomfortably warm room. Services were not on Sunday,
but on Saturday, the true Sabbath according to scriptures,
as Rachel had learned in her Bible course.
As soon as they got to the top of the stairs, a large
man greeted them. He had a voice as big as his burly
body. “Welcome to the True Church of God!” he said,
grabbing their hands and shaking them vigorously. Her
mother had led the way and didn’t seem the slightest
taken back by this greeting but Rachel stood back a little.
She didn’t like physical contact, especially with strangers,
especially with strange large men.
Rachel noticed a table with a woman sitting behind it.
Her dark hair was pulled back into a tight bun and she had
a typewriter in front of her and was busy filling out some
forms. There were framed color photos and posters on
the table, and church literature, some of which she
recognized. In the photos was an elderly man posing with
dignified looking individuals. Rachel glanced at them and
realized that it was the man she’d heard on the radio.
These were photos of him preaching the good news to
world leaders, just as he’d claimed.
“My name is Jordan,” the greeter said. “How did you
Her mother answered, “Mr. Critchett invited us.”
This satisfied Jordan who then asked, “And how did you
come to The Truth?”
Rachel wondered for only a moment who was this Mr.
Critchett since she had never heard of him. Then she
slipped quietly past as her mother chatted with this man.
She looked around the meeting room. The windows
were large and low to the floor. Someone had opened
one near the doorway and Rachel worried instantly that a
child might fall out. She looked around. No one was
paying any attention to the window and the small children
were close to their mothers.
Here she was in a place she’d only dreamed about
with people who shared her dream, people who cared
about the problems in the world and were actually doing
something about it to make a difference. She surveyed the
room of people, the men and boys were all dressed in
suits and the women dressed in their best clothes. Even
the little children were dressed up. Most were quiet and
hanging near their parents. The men had brief cases. The
women carried a Bible along with their handbags. Women
greeted one another with hugs and chatted in hushed
Two youngsters ran by her, pushing and hollering.
They were about six or seven, Rachel thought. Not so
well behaved as the other children, yet no one paid any
attention to them.
“Hello,” a feminine voice said from behind. “You’re
new here, aren’t you? My name is Faith.”
Rachel turned to the young woman, noting how pretty
she was, with her blonde hair neatly tied back with a black
velvet bow and her lovely shirtwaist flower-print dress.
“Hi, I’m Rachel. This is my first time here.”
“When did the minister invite you?” the girl inquired.
Rachel looked confused. “Invite me?”
“Well, you can’t attend services unless you’re invited.”
“Uh, my mother said we were invited by Mr.
Critchett. I don’t know when,” Rachel explained, feeling a
wave of unease.
Faith’s eyes sparkled as she looked over the
newcomer. Rachel wondered what she was thinking.
“Here, let me show you around,” Faith offered. “Come
Faith took Rachel over to her mother. “Mom, this is
Rachel. She’s new.”
Faith’s mother turned to Rachel and asked, “Where
are you from?”
“Standish, Maine,” Rachel said, smiling. Faith’s
mother was about the same age as her own mother; she
guessed and wondered what kind of relationship the two
had. She thought how lucky Faith was to have a mother
obviously devoted to the church, a Christian woman who
wouldn’t do things to hurt her own family.
The older woman smiled back. “Well, welcome, dear.
I’m sure my daughter will take good care of you.”
Faith shrugged at Rachel as her mother immediately
turned back to her own discussion with another member.
“Oh, there’s Kathleen. Come on. I’ll introduce her.
You’ll like each other.”
They headed across the room. Rachel felt like the
people were watching her. Actually most of them were.
It wasn’t every week that a new member came. “Hey,
Kathleen, I want you to meet Rachel.”
Kathleen was standing next to her mother and turned
to greet her friend, Faith. She eyed Rachel and smiled.
“Well, another convert,” she said. “How did you come to
know The Truth?”
Rachel wasn’t sure what to answer. “I listen to the
Kathleen nodded, glancing at Faith. “So, you’re really
“This is my first time here,” Rachel said. “But I’ve
been reading a lot of the church literature. And I have my
own Bible.” She held up her white zippered Bible to show
them. They both nodded.
“Can you show me the ladies room?” Rachel asked.
“It was a long ride from Maine, and my Mom got lost
trying to find this place.”
“Sure, this way,” Kathleen said.
There was an elderly woman in the rest room
combing her hair. When Rachel stood close to the mirror
to put on some lipstick, the woman snapped at her. “We
don’t allow harlots in our church!”
“What?” Rachel said, startled.
“Meet Alice,” Faith said.
“That’s Mrs. Andrews to you, young lady,” the woman
“Mrs. Andrews,” Faith repeated. “Rachel is new. She
doesn’t know about our rules yet. Don’t you think it
might be better to let the ministers tell her?” Faith knew
she was being a little disrespectful, but she was also right
and Alice knew she wasn’t supposed to offend one of the
“Humph!” Alice said, picking up her bag and Bible and
leaving the restroom. Both Kathleen and Faith burst out
“What’s so funny?” Rachel asked.
“Did you see her face? I can’t believe you said that to
her. Don’t you know she’s our elder?” Kathleen said to
“So what? She was wrong and she knew it. What’s
she going to do? Tell people what she said to Rachel?”
“You’re braver than I am,” Kathleen said.
“I don’t understand,” Rachel said. “Did I do
“It’s the lipstick,” Faith said. “Look around. Did you
see any make-up on any of the ladies out there?”
“Well, I didn’t notice. Everyone looks dressed up for
“Women aren’t allowed to wear make-up,” Kathleen
“But we’re not supposed to tell you that,” Faith
injected. “Only the ministers can tell new people the
“Yeah, so they don’t get scared away,” Kathleen
“I don’t understand,” Rachel said. “Why can’t women
“It’s in the Bible. Only harlots wear make-up. Don’t
worry, you’ll hear all about it soon enough. Just wipe off
the lipstick so no one else says anything.”
Rachel wiped it off. Faith stepped closer when
Kathleen was in the stall and whispered. “Don’t sweat it.
I wear lipstick when I’m not here, but no one knows. It’s
no big deal. Just a bunch of rules for church.” She nodded
In came the young girl who’d run by Rachel earlier.
“Hey, slow down,” Faith said, grabbing the girl’s arm.
“Where’s your mother?”
“Let go!” the girl said, pulling away. “I don’t have to
listen to you.” The girl ran out of the restroom.
“Little brat,” Faith said. Kathleen was washing her
hands. “Come on, Faith,” she said.
Faith looked at Rachel. “Justina—the ministers little
girl. She gets away with murder.”
Rachel nodded and said, “Oh.”
“It’s time for services to start. Come on. You can sit
As the girls reached their seats near the back of the
room, a man stood at the podium and asked everyone to
stand. People pulled out hymnals and several songs were
sung. Rachel didn’t recognize any of them and they were
difficult melodies to follow. The words sounded like
psalms from the Bible but she wasn’t sure. Everyone sang
boisterously. It was a happy sound, especially to Rachel.
She glanced at her two new friends feeling a warm glow
inside. Maybe, now, she was finally home.
As they sang hymns, Rachel noticed her mother and
two brothers on the other side of the room. She got a
knot in her stomach and looked back at the hymnal. How
long would this last, she wondered. How long before her
mother got bored and moved on to some new church?
At the end of the songs a man gave a long prayer
asking the Lord to open the minds of those present, to
pour out his Holy Spirit on God’s Children, and to correct
any deviation in any member’s attitude. “Amen” everyone
said and sat down.
First there was a sermonette. Apparently it was given
by a minister in training, a young man who looked little
older than Rachel. His presentation lasted about fifteen
minutes and he sat down. She wasn’t sure what his
message was, but he quoted from numerous scriptures.
People turned to them in their Bibles and followed along.
When he finished, more songs were sung and then an
older man stepped to the podium. “That’s the pastor,”
Faith whispered. “Mr. Driscoll.”
The man had a thick English accent. “He’s from
Australia,” Kathleen whispered.”
His sermon lasted three hours. It was nearly five
o’clock when he finally wrapped up. Theme: Lean not to
thine own understanding. He referred often to scriptures
and the whole room took their Bibles and turned to the
scriptures to follow along as he read the passages.
Sometimes pages shuffled after he began reading as some
younger person had difficulty locating the scripture.
Rachel turned to the passages, too, in her white
zippered Bible. If she couldn’t locate it quickly enough,
she pretended she’d found it and read along, making a
mental note to memorize the order of the books of the
Bible before the next meeting.
The message was clear: you can’t understand the
truth on your own. You need the Holy Spirit. He
admonished the congregation not to offend any of these
little ones. Rachel figured he was referring to herself and
her family, as new members. Faith nodded to Kathleen as
if to say, “See, I was right to tell Alice off.” Kathleen
Mr. Driscoll explained God’s Plan to the audience. “It
is only through God’s Apostle, Russell W. Sherburne, that
we can know The Truth,” he said. He went in to a lengthy
story about Russell’s conversion and how he grew the
flock of God’s Children and began doing The Work—
Russell was the man on the radio. Rachel had never
thought about him, personally. Now she was learning
what a wonderful man he really was—and that he was
special, too. He was God’s Apostle. That explained why
his words and his voice were so soothing to her on those
many lonely nights in the car. God was speaking to her
through Russell W. Sherburne. She began to realize how
blessed she was. Something special was happening to her.
She was one of the chosen few.
Well, these were her thoughts during the sermon.
Afterward, Faith and Kathleen explained to her that only
converted people actually were chosen. “What do you
mean?” Rachel asked.
“Well, you have to be born again. Don’t worry.
You’ll learn all about it,” Faith said. “Besides, we’re not
old enough yet. You have to be an adult to be a Child of
God. We can only profess to be a Child of God until
Rachel was confused, but confident it would all make
sense eventually. She hadn’t read about this in any of the
literature she’d received from the church. They sang
several more hymns and prayers at the end of the sermon.
The pastor closed with an admonition to pray for Mrs.
Dugan who was sick.
Kathleen and Faith chatted for a while and Rachel
stood up. She noticed another young woman a few seats
up. Kathleen said, “That’s Wilma.”
“What’s wrong with her?” Rachel asked.
Faith and Kathleen looked at each other with concern.
“We’ll introduce you,” Faith suggested. “I always try to
talk to her.”
They made their way to Wilma, who was sitting
listlessly in a wheelchair. Despite her aged and tired
appearance, Rachel thought the woman must not be too
much older than she, perhaps twenty or so.
“Hi, Wilma. We have a new friend—Rachel. She’s
“How do you do?” Wilma said, holding out her hand
to shake Rachel’s.
“I’m fine,” Rachel said. “It’s nice to meet you.” Rachel
noticed that Wilma’s hand was limp and reminded her of a
dog’s paw, extended waiting for you to do all the work of
Wilma nodded and looked down. “We’ll see you
next week,” Faith said, pulling Rachel away. “We don’t
like to tire her out,” Faith whispered.
“What’s wrong with her?” Rachel asked again.
Kathleen answered, “Don’t know. She has some
Faith and Kathleen seemed to have stuff to talk about,
so Rachel moved among the friendly group by herself. The
young girl who’d run by earlier stood by a woman in the
front. Rachel surmised it was the child’s mother and the
wife of the Pastor who’d given the sermon. She decided
to introduce herself.
“Hi, my name is Rachel,” she said. “This is my first
The woman smiled at Rachel. “Welcome, dear.
Where are you from?”
“Standish, Maine. I’ve been listening to the radio
program for years and read most of the literature. I even
completed the Bible course.”
The woman looked at her with surprise, and perhaps
disbelief. This was a young girl, and the course was over
50 chapters. “Well, that’s very interesting. I suspect there
are some things you have yet to learn.”
“I am anxious to learn,” Rachel said. “Especially about
becoming a Child of God. How do I do that?”
“You can’t decide that, dear. Only God decides who
is called and chosen.”
Rachel felt a twinge of rejection. The woman sensed
it and quickly added, “You need to counsel with a minister.
It takes time. Be patient.” She reached over to pat
Rachel’s hand reassuringly. “We can’t comprehend The
Truth all at once. Soon you will understand that. God will
reveal The Truth to you as you are able to take it.”
Rachel nodded. Her joy at finding God’s true church
seemed to fade a little. There was a small voice inside that
doubted. Soon she’d learn to recognize that doubting
demon and purge it from her mind, but for now, she was
still a babe. She knew she had much to learn. She was
eager to do so. “I intend to be a Child of God,” Rachel
said firmly to the minister’s wife.
“Good for you,” the woman said, then turned to her
daughter who was pulling on her sleeve for attention.
Rachel made her way back to Kathleen and Faith.
“We have to go now,” she said. “I hope to be back next
“Great,” both girls said. “Faith was just telling me she
wants to get her own place after graduation,” Kathleen
stated. “What are you doing?”
Rachel hadn’t thought much about school. It was her
dream to go to college but now that her mother had
moved just a few weeks prior to graduation, she doubted
she’d even get her high school diploma, but she didn’t
want to tell her new friends about all that. “I need to find
a place to live, too,” Rachel said, surprising herself. She’d
often thought about living on her own but never openly
“Well, I want out, too,” Kathleen said. “I can’t stand
living at home another day. Maybe we could pool our
resources and find a place together. With the three of us,
we could probably afford an apartment. Are you
Faith looked at Rachel expectantly. Rachel smiled.
“Then all we need is permission,” Faith said.
“From our parents?” Rachel asked.
Kathleen laughed. “That’s the easy part. No, from