Part 07 B. “I Will Work Harder.”

I have rewritten and expanded the entire contents of these pages as a book called Captive Congregation: My Fourteen Years in the Church of Bible Understanding. It is available in paperback and as an eBook. You can also continue to read the rough outline and first draft of Captive Congregation right here on these pages.



Woodruff Years  [from when I moved there until the so called re-awakening and backslider meetings.]

I got put out of the Church Business as a result of exhaustion.  It had been a long intense period of working over the Christmas and New Year holidays.  This was a busy time.  Some brothers used to say there was a high demand for carpet cleaning before Christmas by people and businesses wanting to prepare for the holidays and then just as an intense demand after the holidays from people who had waited and were cleaning afterward.  This meant a demanding schedule for all of us in “The Business” and we were on the carpet clearning teams from when you woke up until late at night.  You rolled home after a late evening or a “night job” and went to bed.  It was like this day after day.  Hitting the bed and it seemed just moments later Paul was in my room waking me up, handing me a small stack of “job cards.”  I could hear Paul’s footsteps on the stairs and then in the hallway, moments before he got to my room and I felt a sense of weariness and dread at the sound of his footfalls.

And then, after the holidays, there was a sudden downturn in cleaning business and any suplus brothers who were not needed on cleaning jobs that day were sent out on “flyering crews” to pass out flyers on the streets.  One day during flyering, I began to zone out, standing there on a corner, spacing out and being “lazy” and began to go into a daze and just no longer could remain enthusiastic enough to walk up to each person passing by, saying “Do you want to have your carpets cleaned?”

(Sometimes we could get quite into flyering, saying things to people or making comments and even getting a laugh from people, and they’d take a flyer.  One day, long after I left the cult, I saw young people passing out flyers for an ad campaign in the city and one of the guys wasn’t getting many people to take flyers from him, so I walked up to him and told him I used to do this a long time ago.  I said that people in New York are jaded and that by the time they see you, 10 other people have tried to hand them flyers and they don’t want to take one from you.  You’ve got to walk a few paces with them, smile say a few things to them, be a little animated, I said.  I passed out a few of his flyers to show him what I meant.  The kid tried it.  After I walked away, I could see him back there, now looking like he was enjoying passing out flyers.)

But that day, after at least a month of a treadmill like carpet cleaning schedule, I had had enough.  I was exhausted.  In COBU, there was no concept of a vacation or a day off if you worked in church businesses.  You would never hear that the brothers have been working hard, let them take a few days off.  No, “closing” was low and there were a lot of blank spots on the schedule and these needed to be filled with jobs.  You could not live on or rest on what you had accomplished yesterday. Yesterday’s accomplishment was already forgotten.  Money had to be brought into the church, and this was more important than you or any of your needs were.

The brothers whom I had been working with that day reported me at the next business meeting as being lazy.  I don’t remember what defense I said on my own behalf.  I doubt I even connected it in my own mind that my “bad” behavior was because I was worn out.  It wouldn’t have mattered anyway.  The several witnesses who spoke against me were all that was needed as evidence, and besides, they and everyone else had been working, why not you?  Had I been a little smarter, rather than standing around with the other brothers passing out flyers, I would have walked off with a stack of flyers, telling the brothers that I was going to go into stores to solicit jobs.  At the very least it would have allieviated the boredom of standing on the corner for hours.  And I was not separated enough internally from the church and what it stood for (its ideals etc.) to do any independent thinking like that and to have walked away and sat in the library, away from the eyes of the others, and if necessary, dumping my flyers in a litter basket, or leaving them in stacks inside an apartment building, saying I had passed them all out.  That would have taken a degree of separation from the church I did not have. (And a degree of separation from Jesus, at least the Jesus as portrayed in COBU, who hated “sluggards” and who cast lazy people into the lake of fire, as he did with the wicked servant in the Parable of the Talents.) When you’re a part of the “collective” like that, you don’t think much about getting away.  It was inertia or momentum too.  Living communally, working in teams, I was not likely to suddenly break away and take time to myself, or even have the idea occur to me.  I would begin to do this later, though.

(It also shows the willingness of church members to cast off anyone out of the business or even out of the church who did not live up to the required degree of work or a certain standard, even within just a few days of their not making the grade.  It was a kind of do or die, militant way of life.  “Slackers” were dangerous examples and could infect everyone else if they got away with it.  And besides, such examples served to keep others in line.  And we had many meetings where we were told we were lazy and where we committed ourself to working harder. It reminds me of George Orwell’s book, Animal Farm.  It was run by the Pigs who took over as dictators.  There was a loyal draft horse called Boxer, whose motto was “I will work harder.” When he collapsed from overwork, the Pigs sold Boxer to a slaughterhouse (where he was turned into glue) for a case of whiskey.  I think of this as the symbolic fate of those who have toiled away in the Church of Bible Understanding for so many years.  Then again, with the extreme profitability of their Olde Good Things architectural antique business, after Stewart’s death, there might finally be a little profit sharing.  But certainly all along the way, for any COBU brother or sister who has left there up till this time, after their years of toil and self denial, has gone out with nothing as their reward for their toil.)

I was in and out of the church businesses several times, under these and similar circumstances.  When not in church businesses, I got jobs “in the world,” “working for Pharaoh” as it was sometimes called.  The allusion was to the hard labor of children of Israel, during their captivity in Egypt, making bricks for Pharaoh.  But really, any brick making (usually without straw) was when you worked for Christian Brothers.  Jobs in the world, by contrast, had limits and you could leave at 5 and you didn’t work on the weekends.  (The only non-workday in The Business was Sundays if there was a day-long meeting with Stewart.)  There was the upside of camaraderie (though many brothers were solemn and didn’t get into “levity” or much “human fellowship” especially certain ones who just seemed closed off and were like business machines) of brothers you worked with, especially if it was someone you liked who seemed like a friend.  Jobs in the world, you worked alone among those whom you did not know, but often it was just a relief to be off the Christian Brothers treadmill (which included the additional scheduled item of business meetings), especially if you had a delivery job where you drove by yourself all day.  I enjoyed jobs like that.

But, there was always a catch and you were not going to rest so easy with your job in the world.  It was considered shameful to not be “united and working with your brothers” (even if you had been put out by these very same brothers) and you were that much less “in fellowship.”  Though there were no relationships, sisters seemed to favor Business Brothers a little more.  (There is much here I can’t go into in a short space.  To get married, according to COBU, a brother had to be living “rightly” in every way, before he could even consider taking a sister in marriage – and not being “united with your brothers in the purpose” of the church would be a serious flaw in walking this perfect path.)  And there were shaming tactics sometimes as well.  I saw a sister walk up to a brother in the kitchen at Woodruff Avenue and ask him why she was supporting him financially.

(When you heard these kind of questions, especially when you heard different people say the same exact line, you knew it was a question that “Brother Stewart” had said should be asked.  In this case, at some Sisters Meeting, he had told the women to ask the brothers this.  (It’s a while ago, so I am not certain whether this was directed toward brothers “working in the world” or toward brothers in The Business at a time when they were not bringing a lot of money into the church, whereas the sisters, nearly all of whom “worked in the world” were able to get highly paid secretarial and accounting jobs. (Because of their honesty and diligence, “Pharaoh” liked COBU sisters as employees, and some of them had nicely paying jobs with responsibilities and a degree of skill that brothers did not have.  Brothers often got “grunt” jobs in the world, like carpenter’s helper or delivery driver…. education or college was out of the question….) and therefore made more than the brothers.  The concept, according to Traill was that if any sister was bringing in more weekly income to the church than a brother was, she was “supporting him.”)  I saw the brother, whose name was Warren, respond to the sister’s question by saying, that he brought money into the church, which covers his rent and food, so how is she supporting him?  She backed down.

During this time ,there were a series of programs, like the storefront and weekend fellowships.  There were still a lot of older live-out marrieds coming over.  This is the last time there was such a large group of these ones still coming around.  After this most did not come around anymore.

When we used to have meetings in a hotel ballroom in Philadelphia, Stewart said we excommunicated him, because no one remembered to call him to come to the meeting.  This lead to a period time where we had meetings where we deliberated for hours about how to reinvite Stewart to our meetings. We could never ask rightly enough for Stewart to come back.  He “solved” this problem by “inviting himself” to some meeting and arriving unannounced.  Citing how Jesus said “I am not going to that feast,” but that he went later anyway.

There was a period of general anarchy, as Stewart seemed to withdraw more and more from our lives.  We only saw him in meetings every month or so.   I had time to read in my room.  I took up jogging again and began to get into all my old interests.  I also used to daydream heavily about my life before coming to the church and these daydreams and longings stayed with me until I finally left.  (I remember long passages on my driving job, musing on the summer sky as I drove and daydreaming about my past summers and wishing I could be out in summer now.  The driving job gave me a break from Woodruff for 5 working days a week and I loved it.  I didn’t realize that at first as there was the shame of being cast out of the church business.  This is one of the favorite periods in my life.)

-=-=-=-=  This section needs to be put in part 8=-=-=-

(rough draft or outline for next section)

End of the driving job era.

I left the driving job in order to escape temptations that seemed to be all around.  I thought that if I were near my brothers all the time, I would be free from this.  I thought I needed to make a desperate change, and about that time, Bob W. was starting the wood floor work, this time unger the aegis of Christian Brothers

Dream of change.  [Put and condense the content of the dream in here.  Put in about how I talked to Greg about it.]  How hopeless my life, life in the church seemed at that time.

Backslider meetings.  Going to the new property. No one could make the grade.  Stewart relented and began to let us come there.  Had a big announcement to make.  This is where he did the damage control stuff.

Stewart “repents” and starts over and promises of change.

Slamming the sisters.  Suddenly, the doors open and new people are swept up.  Problems with the new people.  The older brothers turn, now 810 starts.


2 Responses to “Part 07 B. “I Will Work Harder.””

  1. Helen Says:

    Interestingly, I googled the surname “Trail.” It is the name of Scottish Barons who was descended from Morgan of Vernon, a Viking and Norman. The Normans were the horrific Viking colonizers of England and France (Normandy). History repeats itself.

  2. Helen Says:

    Correction to the above post: it is “Mordac of Verdun,” not “Morgan of Vernon.” Sorry.

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