Mary's UPC & Apostolic Experiences: Part One

I was happy with Pentecost for the first few months I was 'in church'. There were a few problems, but nothing major. And there were a lot of seemingly good things. I was getting lots of attention from my pastor and church family, and more so after three of my friends came and prayed through and many others began coming to visit. Yet I was told they were completely my responsibility. People told me I had to teach them Bible studies and help and counsel them and get them all to church somehow by myself. I was told they were my "babies". One woman repeatedly remarked "Isn't it cute! Our babies are having babies!" and I wondered at her statement-any human being should know that babies don't have babies, and that no one raises a child alone. Any Christian should also realize that "one man waters, another plants, but God gives the increase."

Then all three of my friends stopped going to my church at about the same time. They made some pretty barbed statements, and I was dealing with their situations, my fear that I would also leave, and self doubt because of a drop in the attention and compliments I was getting as well as doubt induced by a statement that had been made regarding the friends' leaving: "That's what happens when they aren't established." I determined that because I hadn't been there long enough, so my immaturity was the reason they'd left. I lived not only with the guilt of not helping them enough or teaching them enough, but also with the concept that I wasn't 'established' and had 'lost them'.

Being in college, I moved home, 100 miles from my home church for the summer. By that fall, I felt totally backslid. I went back to church and for the first time couldn't feel that special something that I had felt the year before. It never dawned on me that what I was missing wasn't God, it was excitement and the loads of verbal affirmation that people had given me. Due to the style of preaching, I thought I'd 'lost the Holy Ghost' or maybe never really 'had it'. Soon I was struggling with depression, and I felt condemned for that too.

Several years later, another pastor started giving me some attention at camp. He invited me to move to his city. My pastor let me go. I didn't know how different churches could be, how different pastors could be. The new pastor wasn't very interested in me after I moved. And my guess is that my former pastor sent me fully planning for me to come running home when I found out how things were at the other church. He sent a few other people out and most of them came back and became quite happy at 'home'. But the new pastor told me that I'd been sent to learn not to be so strict on standards-that my pastor sent me to 'loosen up' on what he taught! I was very confused. In the three months I was at the new church, he pretty much undermined my trust in both himself and my former pastor. At the same time, I was introduced to a much more conservative UPC within driving distance. They had all the services and prayer meetings that the church I'd been going to didn't... and they started giving me special attention. Thinking that if they maintained higher standards they would be safe, I ran to them and fully adopted their standards.

Things seemed good at the conservative church at first. They seemed kind and caring. It was a small church, and there were plenty of opportunities to get involved. Maybe too many. I played piano and tambourine, taught Sunday School, helped with bus ministry, fed the kids breakfast before Sunday School (the snacks mandated by church often purchased from my own budget), watched people's kids after church, cooked, cleaned, and helped with office paperwork... but it was fun, and I fit, for the most part. I thought. Two early warnings were when one man close to the pastor started telling me he was praying I'd loose my secretarial job because women should stay at home (I wasn't married), and when the pastor got upset because I wouldn't take two new convert men (one who was interested in me and the other whose mom was interested in 'us') out by myself after church to entertain them. Another was the tapes passed out at church in which the preachers would say things such as that they questioned whether people in liberal churches even got the Holy Ghost.

But I had the Truth, after all. And besides, where would I go? I loved my city, my job, and even my church. But then, about a year after I moved there, things went crazy. The pastor and his family faced some extreme personal difficulties. The church faced some setbacks. The pastor began going on extremely long fasts to 'find out what the problem was'. (He later stated that he thought the problem was himself at first, but then he realized it was me. After I was thrown out, it became one couple, another person, a family... to my knowledge at least 12 people in a church of 20 were thrown out in a period of three years.)

The preaching had always been hard, but now things were totally out of control. He wouldn't tell all of us what was happening. For instance, the pastor would tell the men something, and the men were to tell their wives at home-which cut out any unmarried women as well as anyone whose husbands didn't communicate well. I was told that I better either get married or move back in with my parents (in my late 20s) because I had to be under a man. I was conflicted-I wanted to be obedient, but the things being taught just didn't make sense. I thought I was being tested and that things would get better 'if I just held on'. Then a visiting minister preached on the severed hand- that anyone cut off from their church could not be put into another body but was forever dead to Jesus, that the blood had stopped flowing in their lives. Not long after, I got called into the pastor's office. He, his wife, and another man as witness accused me of some things. Hearing the horrible accusations, I cried out "No!"... and was promptly rebuked for talking back to him. I was told that they were going on a trip, and if I didn't change by the time they returned in a few days, he'd throw me out. Permanently.

I immediately went on a fast. I planned to fast until they returned, thinking that this was just a way of testing me. I spent the next five days in prayer and 'repentance', begging God not to let this happen and trying to repent of things I knew I'd never done. I called everyone I could in the church and asked their forgiveness. By the third day, I was getting desperately hungry, and tried to call the pastor, thinking I would only break fast after he'd given me permission to stay. No answer. When I finally did get through, the pastor was angry that I interrupted his time away. I finally stopped my fast the fifth day. I had to eat, whether they were back or not.

When they returned (a week or two later), the first service they were back he preached a message in which he said that someone there that night would never be back, that they'd go out and cut their hair and put on pants, and everyone would be shocked who it was and how fast they'd change. I waited after church to see if things were OK. They didn't say anything. I helped clean up a bit after church, took the trash out and went home. When I got home, the pastor called me and told me never to come back. He also told me he didn't even know if I could be saved.

I had never heard of anyone being thrown out of a church before. Sat down, yes. But not thrown out. The severed hand message and the someone's going to backslide message really troubled me. I knew the presbyter of another section and called him. I explained the situation. He told me there was nothing that could be done, but that I could come to his church. He further said that they had an evangelist in that would lay hands on me and feel my spirit, then tell him if I had been hurt spiritually or not. What the evangelist 'felt' would determine whether I could go to that church. I refused. I called someone at headquarters, and they told me that (even though HQ was financially supporting the church I'd been thrown out of- it was a home missions work) every pastor was autonomous and there was nothing they could do, that I should just find a different church and go there.

For awhile I drove out of town. I thought things would be better in another state; that I could still attend a UPC, could avoid some of the rumors and gossip that was starting, and could 'keep a good witness' with my 'unsaved' parents- in other words, deceive them into believing there had been nothing wrong in the town and church I was leaving. So I moved. Little did I know. Things were about to get exponentially worse.

Part Two of Mary's experiences may be read here.

Mary has written extensively about her discoveries since leaving here.


Posted November 6, 2011

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