#0010 Let’s get personal; I’ll go first. (cont.)
We talked and talked, and Ed continued with his work in the kitchen. The more we talked, the more we sensed that something was happening to us, but we couldn’t say what it was. I confided in Ed that I’d been praying a lot in the past couple of weeks and one thing I was praying for was for God to show me His church. I told him about a meeting I’d had over at my friend Dave’s sister’s place—she and her husband had recently joined the Jehovah’s Witnesses and really liked it. At the meeting Dave’s brother-in-law told us all about the Jehovah’s Witnesses and did so in a very compelling sort of presentation. Could this be an answer to my prayers already? Dave said it sounded pretty good to him too. A few days after that, though I saw Dave’s dad and he asked me in passing how it was going; I told him I was looking into his son-in-laws church and Dave’s dad’s response was simply’ “Rocky, You don’t want to join the Jehovah’s Witnesses!” [The way he looked at me and his statement; has since reminded me of the compelling suggestion those storm troopers were given by Obi Wan Kenobi in the first Star Wars movie…“These aren’t the droids you’re looking for!”] Any interest I had in the Jehovah’s Witnesses Church seemed to wither and blow away right then and there. We both did agree that it would be good to connect with somebody we could trust who might have some insights about what was going on.
After Ed was done in the kitchen, we went outside and it was fully dark by then, probably 9:30 or so on a Friday night. Sitting on the picnic table in the backyard we were caught up in a spirit of awe and a kind of wonderment, feeling close to each other and close to God, perhaps for the first time in our lives. As we sat discussing things, gazing into the heavens; Ed began to once again verbally review what had just taken place in the house—the miraculous clearing of his mind. In his exuberance he proclaims, “I know who we need to get a hold of—Eric from school. He’s been involved with a church for a while and he says it’s really cool there. His family moved here from Southern California a couple of years ago. He used to smoke pot all the time; but he doesn’t do any of that stuff anymore, not since he’s been going to this church. And he’s an awesome guitar player—he’s played in bands and stuff. My sisters are in school with a couple of his sisters. I think his number’s in the house.”
I said, “Okay, go call him!”
We hurried into the house and Ed quickly found Eric’s. He dialed it up and one of his sisters answered.
“Sorry, he’s not home right now; they went to the movies. I think he went with Bill.”
“Please have him call Ed as soon as he gets back. It’s very important. I have to speak with him tonight. My number is________.”
“Okay. I’ll give him the message.”
Ed hung up the phone and we gravitated back toward the living room wondering if Eric would call back. I was still thinking about other people who might be good to talk to…we barely sat down when there was a knock on the back door. I stayed put while Ed got up to answer it. I heard the door open and 5 seconds later Ed comes back into the living room with a big grin on his face and Eric and Bill trailing behind him. What was happening?
Fast-forwarding ahead with a cursory perusal of events…
- Ed, myself, Bill and Mark (another friend) were all baptized into the church Eric was going to. The Church was the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of latter Day Saints which shares the same origin with the Mormons.
- Our shared conversion experience was one of many such events happening all across America in the late sixties/early seventies. Many of those converted to Christ were youth.
- The small congregation the four of us joined enjoyed record numbers of new memberships for the next few years. I can remember many Sundays going to church on Sunday morning with the house filled to capacity. There was an almost tangible sense of anticipation and verve that was evident to everybody when they came to church. This lasted for a period of 2-3 years after the four of us joined the congregation in 1970.
- There was another bigger influx of youth happening concurrently with the things happening in our branch (congregation). In the Grand Rapids District a youth group called The Group was sprang up seemingly overnight. This was started by a couple of ministers of the RLDS Church and quickly started to look like a cult.
- On Dec, 30, 1970, less than 1 year after this encounter with God; coming back from lunch in a friend’s car, Ed was in a horrible crash and killed. He was 19.
- At the 1984 World Conference of the Wallace B. Smith submitted a revelatory document which included the incorporation of women being ordained into the priesthood. It also included words which green-lighted the building of the Temple. A vote was taken to determine whether or not the members would accept this document and it passed.
- Of the 5 of us young and eager men of Christ who came into the church (including Eric), I was the only one who was called into the ministry as a priest. I was ordained in 1993—23 years after I was baptized—better late than never. To this day, priesthood calls never came for any of the guys. Would there have been a call for Ed, had he lived? Only God knows the answer to that.
- In 1995 I started dating a life-long member of the church who was a priest. Because she was divorced she had had her card suspended for a year as per standard church practice at the time. The pastor was under the impression that a suspension was the same as a revocation of her priesthood card; therefore believed a whole new calling to priest had to be initiated by him as pastor. He told my girlfriend that he hadn’t seen anything in her character that warranted a call to priest. In the end he had to be compelled by the regional president to reinstate it.
- A few months after we started going out, the same pastor invited me to breakfast following the morning service one Sunday. During the course, he warned me against getting involved with this woman, because he knew her dad and the rest of her family and had inside knowledge that marrying her would be a big mistake.
- My girlfriend and I became leaders the Regional Church’s youth program which called us away from the congregation once per month.
- I wasn’t scheduled to preach for nearly 2-years as a passive/aggressive response by the same pastor for my involvement with the regional youth program. His position was that as a priest, my place was in the branch every Sunday; because I was choosing to not be available on certain Sundays, he would schedule me to peach on one of those Sundays as retribution for my insubordination.
- In the summer of 1995 we left the branch I had been lead to a series of incredible coincidences and happenings. My girlfriend and I co-founded a group whose emphasis was on contemporary worship.
- In 1996 -97 My girlfriend and I began an informal program for housing and helping addicts get back on their feet.
- On the anniversary of the founding of the Church (April 6th, 1999)—against the advice of my hierarchal superior—I married the divorcé priestess. She was my 1st wife; we’ve been happily married 16 years last April.
- In January 2001 we began the process of developing and promoting a community-building initiative/program designed for schools (K-12). We called it ASAP2 (All Schools At Peace As Soon As Possible).
- In August of 2001 my wife and I left the organization formerly known as the RLDS—now Community of Christ Church—to continue our faith journey in a more direct and authentic way.
The story in the telling seems to run out of steam at the end. It reads as though the ending is sad and tragic…and perhaps it would have been so had it not been for God the of the Holy Ghost who always seemed to be with me—and not just in a capacity of comforter and consoler—but in the role of guide and author of my path.