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February 27, 1972 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 1972-02-27

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, i

Number 58

Night Editor: Chris Parks

Sunday, February 27, 1972

Pentecostals in Ann

..Looking for


"I think people today are trying to
find something outside themselves.
You go to college and find that get-
ting a job, going to school and all
the old values you though you be-
lieved in aren't really important."-.
a Pentecostal.
THE PENTECOSTALS, locally a bur-
geoning religious community of
over 400 people, live for Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ, they say, gives them
the power to heal, prophesize and per-
form \miracles. Pentecostals, like their
New Testament predecessors, claim
the ability to "speak in tongues"-to
pray for short periods of time in lan-
guages supposedly unknown to them.
They attend a sort of old-time re-
vivalist prayer meeting, singing, pray-
ing and shouting "Praise the Lord."
The local group is called the Word
of God,,a name they believe God pick-
ed out for them.
The Word of God cannot be dis-
missed as just another bunch of
"Jesus-freaks." Over 400 people have
joined this religious group, a surpris-
ingly large number for any local or-
The recent upsurge of religious fer-
vor, as typified by the Word of God,
is the latest "solution" for youth dis-
satisfied with themselves and the
world around them.
Though distinct from the political
mass movements or psychedelic drug
culture which surfaced over the past
decade, Pentecostals share with many
of the others a common experience:
Involvement in a movement that pro-
vides a central meaning to life.
QOME OF the new, young believers
grab people on street corners,
preaching the end of the world, stuff-
ing leaflets into unwilling hands. One
group, the Children of God, demands
a complete rejection by each member
of ;amily and past. Some worship Sat-
an and Christ as a dual divinity.
Many young believers join a self-
contained community of believers,
such as the Word of God, all convinced
that their lives belong completely to
Jesus Christ.
The members of the Word of God
live together in "households," apart-
ments or clustered in dorms.
Predominately young, community
members. are mostly single, white and
Catholic, though a third are Protest-
ant. About half are students. Members
are not required to subscribe to an or-
ganized religion, but almost all do at-
tend some Christian church.
Members see the Word of God as a
return to the close community and to-
tal commitment to Jesus Christ prac-
ticed by the early Christian church
headed by the apostles. They believe in
Jesus Christ as the only possible cen-
ter, meaning and direction for their
Beth, a member of the community,
says, "The Word of God is the Chris-
tian church as a total involvement
with life, more of a commitment than
just going to church on Sunday. The
Lord is working through us to bring
forth his kingdom on earth."

Rodger, a member of the commun-
ity for two years, says, "I've stopped
living only for myself. Before I was
just into pleasing myself, now I'm
into pleasing Jesus and other peo-
ple. I want to spread the gospel' of
Jesus Christ."
FOR THE WEEKLY Thursday night
public prayer meeting over 600
members and outsiders jam into the
St. Thomas church auditorium. The
prayer meeting is lively, noisy and
The members link arms, sing songs
and pray, while the curious come to
Someone gives a teaching, another
reads a passage from the Bible, some
"speak in tongues."
Several times during the meeting,
the members ."pray out loud." Each
person chants "the Lord be praised"
or similar statements in an individ-

be irrelevant and uninterestin
"I don't think I ever deni
God existed but just said, 'Ok
you stay in your place and I'll
mine. Don't interfere with my
Beth's story also illustrates a
trend for many people to ha
first exposure to the cor
through the invitation of frier
are full members.
"About a year ago, people
kept inviting me to Thursda
prayer meetings. When I wen
intrigued, everyone seemed so
ly, all talking about the Lord.
"I remember I told my ro
after that I was in love wit
Christ and she thought I was
she laughs.
"The Lord has given me the
edge that I'm not the end-all

g. Beth in which individuals find each other
and God," he says.
ed that MEMBERS EAGERLY point to the
ay, God, "evidence" of miracles as proof
1 stay in that Jesus Christ works to change
y life."' their lives.
general The examples range from solutions
ve their to the mundane problems of everyday
nmunity life to healings of physical ailments.
nds who While the Lord can help to start the
car in winter, he also cures sickness.
I knew Ellen relates the story of a mira-
y night cle. "Last year, one of the brothers was
t I was out of money. He needed $15 for regis-
Sfriend- tration and he didn't know where he
would get it. He prayed to the Lord
about it and a few days later, he found
ommate an unmarked envelope in his mail-
h Jesus box with $22 in it. He didn't know why
crazy," the Lord had given him seven extra
dollars, but the next day he went to
knowl- class and found out he had to pay a
and be- lab fee of $7 that he had forgotten
about. The Lord does provide for you."
""...... Possibly the most publicized prac-
tice of the Word of God is "speaking
on as in tongues." Members believe that this
God's ability is given to them from God
1 down when they receive "baptism in the
ut it, Holy Spirit."
Community members claim that the
speech has been analyzed by experts
to resemble the basic linguistic pat-
terns of language.
he Lord Speaking in tongues usually occurs
during prayer sessions of a community
ttracted meeting.
by the Though the person himself suppos-
own by edly is not conscious of what he is
y greet saying, the members believe that the
g and a speech is "an important sign of the
Lord working within you. You can't do
.n at St. it by yourself."
I Catho- After the person speaks, another
I growth member "interprets" what has been
deal of said, usually as a religious teaching
or lesson.

: :tttf}:i?% % .?{:}"'..s..,..................1...............,*
Sexual intercourse outside of marriage is "looked
something the Lord doesn't want to happen. It's not in
plan. But if somebody does it, they are not really looke
on. It's more a question of what would the Lord say abo
says Jill.
{4".44'1. :: ::."F.: I.. I........ . . . . ..I. ..,......4"... . :.I:.4....... I:: J7... ..... . . . .

ual, free-form sort of melody. Gradu-
ally the singing of the group merges
into one final chord.
Members often get up at the public
prayer meetings to give before-and-
after testimonials about how Jesus
Christ transformed their life.
Beth talks about how her belief in
Jesus Christchanged her life.
"I'm different now. Before I was de-
fiant, strong - willed, wanting to
achieve and make a good impression,
becoming involved in causes that I

all, just a small person. TI
loves me."
Many people appear to be a
initially to the community
friendliness and concern sh
members. Members commonl
each other with a warm hug
"Lord be praised."
'Sister Constance, a chaplair
Mary's Student Chapel, a local
lic church, attributes the rapid
of the Community to 'a "great

felt would cause social change. I was
into dope, radical politics, women's
"My epitome of absolute horror was
becoming somebody who'd just get
married and talk about the weather.
I was selfish, I wanted to control
things myself.
MOST MEMBERS of the community
went through Catholic school or
received some religious education at
home. But Beth and many other mem-
bers found organized Christianity to

"The community is a support group.
It fills a vacuum, I wouldn't say that
there is no religious dimension to the
growth. There could be a call from
the Lord within the context of lone-
liness," she says.
Rev. Charles Irvin, another chaplain
at St. Mary's, generally approves of
the Word of God.
"The Word of God has helped peo-
ple that are completely alienated from
others to get themselves back to-
gether. It provides a supportive millieu

Sister Constance is skeptical about
this "gift." "I wouldn't say that
no one has the gift, but I don't
think that the large number who claim
to have it have actually received it. I
think it's'security, to remind the per-
son that he's converted, so he can tell
himself that it was real."
THE WORD OF GOD began in 1967
when four people from a Notre
Dame community settled in Ann Ar-
bor. Today, the community is divided
into four sub-communities. The North
division includes over 120 members
from Bursley and the surrounding
area, the Hill division numbers over
60 people, mainly from the dorms. The
South sub-community is the largest,
with over 150 people, while the smaller
West division is composed of mostly
families and non-students.
Each household also has an individ-
ual head. The household is the basic
unit of the community, with four to
eight members living in houses scat-
tered around the area. The households
are strictly segregated according to
sex. Men live in all-male households
and women live in all-female house-
holds, though a few households with
both single people and married cou-
ples do exist.
THE COMMUNITY bases its faith on
four assumptions supported by

Joe, a former member, criticizes the
members' conception of Jesus Christ.
"If you pray for something and you
get it, then Jesus did it for you. If you
pray for something and don't get it,
then either it's because you're bad, the
world's bad or because whatever you
asked for is something Jesus doesn't
want you to have, for your own good,
of course. Jesus has gotyit sewed up
coming and going," he says.
In response to this charge, Marcia,
a member of the community, says,
"God isn't this namby-pamby Santa
Claus that just gives you things. A lot
of times we ask for something that
wouldn't be good for us. He's all wise."
The community also believes in
close, often literal, interpretation of
the Bible for guidance.t
Sister Constance partially opposes
the community for being too theolog-
ically conservative. "The Word of God
represents the dichotomy between the
sacred and religious that was preva-
lent in the church 50 years ago. I re-
gret that students are not being ex-
posed to the new developments in the-
ology, but this somewhat primitive
theology instead."
TO JOIN the community, a prospec-
tive member undergoes an exten-
sive socialization, process involving
months of special courses explaining
beliefs and the community.
The process culminates in the new
member making a public statement be-
fore the assembled community to sup-
port the community, follow its orders
and contribute money to it.
Once a person has become part of
the Word of God for any length of
time, the community exerts a power-
ful influepce on him even after he
leaves the community.
Lynn, a member of the community
for three years, recently left the Word
of God. But since she has many
friends still in the community and
feels it is "hard to break away," she
does not want her correct name to be
used here. Most of the other inter-
viewed members also asked that their
names not be used.
Lynn says she left the Pentecostals
because of their attitude toward wo-
men members.
"I don't see women in the com-
munity doing anything except staying
home and having babies while the men
go out crusading for the Lord," she
Other members do not agree with
Lynn's analysis. Ellen says, "Women
have a need for a kind of headship.
There are things men are better at
than women and that women are bet-
ter at than men. Women support the
men in the head roles, while the men

Lord doesn't want to happen. It's not
in God's plan. But if somebody does it,
they are not really looked down on.
It's more a question of what would
the Lord say about it." says Jill.
[RVIN THINKS that the community
is too isolated and closed off from
the outside world.
"Too many energies are directed just
to building up the community. It's a
question of balance between helping
others outside the community and be-
ing too introspective."
Irvin sees the community as one type
of Christianity among many.
"If our vision is truly catholic and
liberal, we will nourish experiments."
"The future of the community de-
pends on the quality of leadership that
emerges and how the leadership with-
in the Catholic church reacts. So far
they have a benignly supportive atti-
tude. We're not about to throw the
community out."
'Sister Constance thinks eventually
the movement will die down. "As more
and more structure is imposed for con-
trol then the movement will lose its
original openness 'and freeness."
Some use the community as a
crutch, according to Sister Constance.


Photos by
Sara Krulwich

"I know two or three cases when stu-
dents graduate and don't leave, but
cling to the community. They need it
for their own security," she says.
THE members of the Word of God
believe that their community ex-
ists as an instrument to serve Jesus
Others think the isolated community
represents a dangerous trend towards
non-involvement and non-interest .in
necessary social change.
Still others see the group as a typi-
cal crazy bunch of kids, stoned on God
now instead of dope.
The true social significance of the
Word of God lies not in their religious
beliefs but in the drive, towards com-
munity that the movement represents.
It is not 'surprising that the Word
of God can flourish in Ann Arbor. The
community places its members in
households, an imitation of family
structure, affording the easy estab-
lishment of close, interpersonal ties
between members.
An overriding feeling remains among
members that at last they have found
a meaning and direction to their lives
The enthusiasm for the Pentecostal
mmovement mav entiuall dissolv.


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