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