Growing UP In the
Worldwide Church of God
My name is (name withheld) and I am married to (name withheld) from whom you receive messages from time to time. I am just one of the many people who have exited Worldwide Church of God with stories to tell, pain, anger and bitterness to deal with. I wish to thank you for your web site and the time you spend providing ex members of Worldwide Church of God with an outlet for their anger and frustration.
My parents, siblings, their spouses and children are still members of Worldwide Church of God so I guess I am considered somewhat of a rebel. (It feels good.) I must say that when Worldwide Church of God decided to superficially change their act, my wrath knew no end. How could I have grown up believing in an organization that professed to have the only truth and have stringent rules that must be adhered to? How could I have been so blinded and controlled by this organization I had been brought up in for 27 years of my life? On reflection, my compliance was based on fear and being taught never to question anything.
As children growing up in Worldwide Church of God you were never in a position to question authority. My father's opinion was law in our house and anyone who had anything else to say was talked down or considered to be disrespectful. I remember an incident when I was about 21 when I had a difference of opinion with dad. Well did he yell and poke me in the chest and ask me, " Do you know who you are talking to?" I guess my point here is not to be disrespectful to my father but rather to say how much Worldwide Church of God seemed to attract men who were very dictatorial in personality. Worldwide Church of God provided these men with an environment where they could bully and dictate all in the pretense of being leaders in the godly image. Now I see these men as no more than cowards and I pity them for their lack of human development.
I feel saddened that a good part of my life was spent not questioning or thinking about life and ideas, not being able to experience the many things that life has to offer a young person. I suppose when I discovered that I had every right to use my own mind, to form my own ideas and opinions, I felt cheated by my past, being controlled by an ungodly organization that was based on misinformation, greed, lies and hypocrisy. However, I am so thankful to be out of that environment and be able to see where I was and now where I can go. I must say that I have been making up for lost time with a vengeance. My poor husband, I think I talk him to death sometimes but I am so grateful that we are on the same wavelength.
There are a number of things that have distressed me about growing up in Worldwide Church of God. My parents are/were farmers and life was extremely busy. When they joined Worldwide Church of God their commitments seemed to double. There was precious little time to spend with us four children before, but now there was next to none.
I hated Saturdays for many reasons. I especially hated Friday afternoons because that was PREPARATION DAY. Remember that terminology? My mum would be cooking all day and she always left the dishes for me and my sister to do when we came home from school. The reason mum cooked so much is that we had a three hour drive to church and she had to provide not only morning and afternoon tea for the family but lunch as well.
My father was an early member of our church area and in time was made a deacon. Ugh - I hate that title even now. Because of his blind dedication, he would be at the hall at least an hour early to help set up and of course we had to allow an hour extra traveling time for a breakdown. As you can imagine we left home very early. It was even worse on holy days. Services would start at 10:00am and we had our three hour drive plus one hour for breakdowns and one hour for set up. We were leaving home at around 5 - 5.30am. My father would have to have his one hour of prayer and bible study in the morning. My mother must of been up at 3.30am to get four children out of bed, dressed and fed, meals prepared for the day, (we couldn't afford to eat out when we were paying three tithes and a farming income was next to nothing), plus get her own commitments out the way. We dare not be late in that car otherwise dad would be furious.
A three hour drive is boring for kids at the best of times and at least a third of the drive we had to be quiet because dad would have a snooze while mum drove. Dad had a dreadful habit of falling asleep in church and a deacon couldn't do that, not even after a hard weeks work on the farm. I remember playing such games as animal, vegetable and mineral with a biblical theme. Boring.
Another thing I am angry about is that when my parents started attending Worldwide Church of God, all my story books were burnt. I mean such harmless books as Tootle and Goldilocks and The Three Bears. I had one favorite book called Sooty about a little bear. From memory there was one small section on Christmas. Out it went. I am extremely resentful that imagination, fiction and creativeness was stifled by a bunch of mind controlling cranks. Can you imagine for just one minute what happens to the mind of a 5 year old child when their favorite things are destroyed?
The only fun thing I remember was when the medicine cabinet was cleaned out. I honestly can't believe how much stuff got chucked out. It really was a lot of fun. We dug a big hole out in the orchard by the side of the house and in it went all manner of pills, tablets, potions, cough mixture, tubes of cream etc. I am surprised that there wasn't some sort of chemical reaction. That would have been something to remember.
Talking of medicines brings to the mind the time I had severe conjunctivitis. I was 5 and in my first year of school, my parents had joined Worldwide Church of God that year. Of course the rule in 1968 was no doctors and medication. All my mother could do was bathe my eyes with salt water and worry. My case of conjunctivitis was so severe she thought I might go blind. Every morning she would play a game with me and hide my teddy bear behind her back and play boo to see if I could still see. I cannot begin to imagine the terror and fear she went through all because I couldn't see a doctor and be treated. I was away from school for three weeks and she was also scared that the authorities would start asking where I was and why wasn't I being treated.
When I was about 9 or 10, the school I attended was doing some Christmas activities. The school was very small and there were only two classrooms, three grades in one and four in the other. When it came time to participate in making a Santa Claus, I refused as it had been drilled into me that Christmas was wrong, pagan etc. The teacher asked me why I wouldn't participate. I kept saying I didn't feel like it. The teacher then asked me to go outside. A teacher only ever asked a student to go outside when they were in trouble. I was petrified. I can still remember my legs shaking. The teacher asked me several more times why I wouldn't join in. I finally admitted that I didn't keep Christmas and he said that's O.K.
The point is that I was truly petrified and my parents should have explained to the teachers their beliefs. Funny thing how people in Worldwide Church of God were so adamant that what they believed was right but wouldn't provide teachers with what their beliefs were so that their children weren't put in a situation as I have recounted. I felt quite abandoned on this occasion.
There are so many things that come to mind about the way people in Worldwide Church of God were taken for granted. Not long before I left Worldwide Church of God, my husband became an emergency pianist for hymns at services. Without exception, the songleader for the Saturday in question would ring my husband about 9.00pm on the Friday night before he was to play. It could often take up to half an hour to decide on the appropriate hymns to be sung. The excuse for not ringing earlier in the week was that the speakers for the sermonette and sermon had not decided on the subject on which they were speak. As you know Worldwide Church of God liked to do things decently and in order, so the hymns to be sung had to have the same theme as the content of the sermon and sermonette. No consideration seemed to be taken at the lateness of the hour these phone calls were made or that my husband then had to have practice time and there really was so little time in which to do it. We had morning church so there was no time then and late Friday night after a busy week, all we wanted to do was to fall into bed. Our children were very young at the time and I needed my husband to help me out, not be practicing hymns.
After the birth of each of our children, I suffered extreme post natal depression. When the older one was a baby, my husband had the task of the tape library. Anyone who has had that job knows how much work was involved. It was so ridiculous to lump this job on a family with a new baby. Just getting to church was an extreme effort, 10.00am services. My husband spent all his time before and after services working on the tapes. I had no other family support so this was an extremely difficult time for me. What could my husband do? If you were given a job, you did it. The usual time for a person to have a job was one year. This is just another example of what I believe to be the total lack of consideration shown to mothers and families by the powers that be.
After our second child was born, I once again suffered post natal depression and if possible this illness was even more severe than with the first child. One of the symptoms I suffered was suicidal tendencies. One evening I was acutely distressed and my mum who was helping me out at the time (she lives interstate) rang the minister to come over. What a disaster. He was so ill prepared to help someone in my situation. When you are at a crisis point, the last thing you need to hear is, "Anne, don't ask why this is happening, there is no answer to this question". Can you believe anyone could have said anything less comforting? The guy waffled in this vein for about twenty minutes. I can tell you that I was more depressed when he left because there was not one ounce of comfort or empathy in his words. Oh I believe he meant well, he was just so inadequately prepared or trained to really MINISTER to the needs of members. It wasn't until I went into a special clinic for post natally depressed women that I started to be given the support, love and care I so desperately needed.
This brings me to another point about growing up in Worldwide Church of God. It was said from the pulpit in early years that the people in the world were bad, evil, not to be trusted etc. On entering this mother/baby unit I was so sick I didn't even contemplate going amongst "people of the world". I just wanted to feel safe, free from panic and fear, classic symptoms of post natal depression. Wow, was I surprised at the love, consideration, support, honesty and encouragement of the people that cared for the women in this unit. I was surprised, excited and for the first time in my life, encouraged to give my opinion on everything and anything.
We had discussion groups which were a type of therapy on our rights as women. Imagine that. Women have rights? Not where I came from. I must mention here that my husband has always treated me with respect and been interested in my opinions. However having grown up in an environment where women were to be led etc., my self worth was pretty low. My experience in the mother/baby unit was, I believe, the starting point of my belief in the goodness of the world at large. I did confront my mother on the issue of people in the world being wicked and evil. She said that she had never said that to me and that both she and my dad did not believe that. Well I know I heard it from the pulpit and my parents never offered their difference of opinion to me.
Actually the minister I mentioned attempting to help my depressive attack was the same one who had done my counseling and baptism. In one session he told me that God viewed me like a trash can full of rotting stinking garbage. How low can your self-esteem sink when you are told that? This minister was initially favorable to the new covenant but more for political reasons. He has since left Worldwide Church of God for "health reasons". I suspect that his FINE CAREER ACHIEVEMENTS have finally caught up with him. I sincerely hope so.
Ed, this is a somewhat long dissertation of my life in the Worldwide Church of God. If there is anything contained herein that you feel would be of use on your web site, please feel free to use it. I look forward to reading more from you web site in the future and thanks once again for providing such a service for all the ex Worldwide Church of God members.
Regards, (name withheld).
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