|Issue 9 - December 1972|
|Let Me Be Your Father|
first met the children of God in Newcastle's Bigg Market, where I used
to run a stall. One fine day, nearly a year ago, two American girls came
up and started talking to me. They were called Faith and Esther and said
they had come to Geordieland to do a programme on Tyne Tees TV.
Later that night I met them at the Larkspur Terrace Commune; they were playing guitars and singing the sort of simple little songs most way-out religions seem to exploit - especially those aimed at the conversion of relatively simple folk. The audience did not seem very impressed with what they had to say but the sincerity with which they said it was obvious.
They believe that no other occupation is as important as taking their message to the world. They have no compunction in advising young people to give up their studies and follow them and throw in their lot with the children of God. As the end of the world is rapidly approaching (they say), what is the point of qualifying as an engineer or doctor. They will not be needed in heaven.
Several months later I went to their Bromley commune for a day or two. The building was a disused factory. Outside were several old buses and railway vans in various stages of conversion to mobile headquarters. When I went in the commune was eating the second of the two meals they eat daily. They obviously thought that I was a new convert and I was rapturously received. When I explained that I was not a convert I still felt a sincere welcome.
Basically the commune was a seminary intended to turn a convert into a competent 'witness' after a six-week crash course. The children of God slept in dormitories in two-tier bunks. Men and women were segregated for sleeping of course, as they only believe in sex after marriage for the purpose of procreation. Marriages have to be approved by the leadership.
Conversation was limited to biblical discussion and day to day internal matters. Each convert had to learn by ear a minimum of 400 verses of the Bible. They also went out in groups to give witness and seek converts. The emphasis was always on 'getting the young people'. There were only two people in the place over 40, of whom I was one. The majority was between 16 and 25.
The leadership was largely American and consisted mostly of Faith's family.
They certainly didn't reject scientific method when it came to propaganda and movement. There was an excellent system of communication between the American groups and all the groups in different parts of the world. On the top floor of the building was a private radio station and well-equipped printing shop.
They also used videotapes and television sets to communicate with other groups. The leadership would think nothing of taking a plane to Oslo, Bombay or Honolulu and there always seemed to be funds for plane tickets.
One of the people there was a young man - a very bad cripple, confined to a wheelchair, with a twisted body, thick glasses and a speech impediment. He had lived all his life in institutions. This man went into a really 'high' state at prayer meetings and his entranced expression and slurred speech and spastic movements were enough to make the Devil weep. 'Beautiful Jesus' he said over and over again. He had found his father and his lover, and life was made bearable for him.
When I left Bromley they were about to send a bus to Newcastle but, knowing their sudden shifts of plan, I did not take this too seriously. A couple of weeks later they arrived in one of the ex-railway vans. They stayed for a few days at my house until one of the converted buses arrived.
They were good 'crashers' - the best I've ever had!
They tried witnessing in the markets, in the Quayside, the University and other places. I do not know if their witnessing did not go down too well with the young Geordies, or whether they received a call from some other more wicked place, but suddenly their bus disappeared from Sandyford Road and I have never seen them since.