My life there and afterwards

Posts tagged ‘Spirit of America Band’

BITE: Impose Rigid rules and regulations

We had a very strict schedule and there were no excuses for not being at every service and meeting. Any disobedience was noticed and addressed. You couldn’t get away with anything. Telling on each other was encouraged. It was considered obedience to report any variation from the rules that we noticed. If we did not tell on someone breaking the rules, then we were considered to have joined them in their sin, and would receive the same correction or punishment. Sickness and exhaustion were not considered good reasons to miss, as the meeting or the service was considered to be the spiritual food you needed to get well. In the case of Band, I foolishly ignored my pain and was on the field when I should not have been. When I did go to the Field leader and said I could not continue, he said I was needed and that I could just stand on the sideline if I needed to. Once out there, however, I did more than I should have, and injured myself further. No one checked up on me to see how I was doing.

Absolute obedience was expected and demanded. If we were told to not watch the news, that was that. Anyone caught disobeying was brought before the group and humiliated. The same was true of the dress code.

Every aspect of our lives had a rule, a right way to do it, and we were expected to follow the Mothers instructions to the letter.

BITE: Financial exploitation, manipulation or dependence

We had to support our own family, and one of the conditions of our moving there in Jan 1970 was for my husband to get a job. He worked at a paying job the whole time he was there. However, which job he had was dictated by the leaders, as “spiritual guidance”. He started out as a carpenter’s helper, and years later got training and a job as a jeweler in a shop owned by another Community member. He got good pay for that, but we did not benefit from the pay increase. The more we earned, the more we were asked to give to CJ. We never got ahead. We never had any savings. Our credit cards were always maxed out mostly to buy school clothes for the kids. My husband turned to being a Yankee Trader for fun and satisfaction, which he had a knack for. At different times we had a sunfish sailboat and a sports car, all of which he bought at a cheap price through trading deals. Me, I turned to keeping house, raising the kids, and doing my audio/visual job for satisfaction.

We never had much, but of course tithing was mandatory, and the very minimum. The more you gave above that, the more you were a dedicated and loyal member. There was definitely a lot of pressure to give. The leaders used to brag that we depended mostly on ourselves for all the money we needed for all of “God’s” projects. Somehow I thought that was good, and was blind to how it was bleeding our family dry.

We were caught in a system where giving was the norm and expected, and personal gain was castigated as sin. After my husband left in 1989, and I joined the sisterhood, I had no money of my own. Even when I did work a paying job, I signed the check each week and handed it over to the financial office. I never saw a penny of that money, and when I finally left in 2010 I did not have a cent to my name. Which of course was one of the blocks to leaving, because CJ will not support anyone who leaves.

Those with a lot of money were wined and dined and wooed into the group. Their personal needs were ministered to, spiritual advice was given to them and they then felt grateful and gave large sums of money to CJ. Once their loyalty was established, pressure was put on them to maintain their loyalty, and when asked to give they had to in order to maintain their good standing and “good attitude”. I know those in the Band leadership went to some of them and got them to finance the extremely expensive trips to Australia and Korea, and for what? A trophy that sat in the Band office for what purpose? None of us received praise, no one was brought to Christ, we didn’t help anyone. As far as I can tell, all the Band activities were massive ego trips that cost massive amounts of money.

The new Church of the Transfiguration is another example were the wealthy members bail out the unwise decisions of the leadership. I personally witnessed one man coming into the financial office at least 3 times to write a personal check for several thousands of dollars for the monthly loan payment on the church building because CJ did not have the funds.

I know of 2 instances where the elderly have no personal finances to fall back on because they have given all to CJ, and then they are not supported in their infirmities by CJ. In both these cases, the individual, and the couple, were put into nursing homes because the leaders did not want to be “bothered” by their care. CJ had too many important things to accomplish to be burdened by health care issues of old and failing people!!! Their own dedicated people at that!!! In the case of the individual, her husband and family were able to pay the bills, but in the case of the couple, it is an unresolved drama. They only have enough money to stay there a couple of years, then what? CJ will not have anything more to do with them.

Once you are a sister or a brother, you have no money. If you want to leave, no provisions are set up for that. Their rule says in printing that all pastoral solicitation will be given the person (didn’t happen in my case) and that some financial help may be given at the discretion of the Prioress and Deans (I was given $1,000 after 40 years of service, which is not enough to start payment on a rental). This is in effect a closed and locked gate that is very scary indeed to walk through and deters most of the people there.

PoP; Pathology of Perfection

I think something we should all be aware of, not only with groups of high control, but in our daily lives, is the dividing live between reaching for excellence, and the pathology of perfection.
In the group I was in, I think it is pretty obvious that PoP is overwhelming in the daily life. It is preached, and we were shamed all the time because we did not reach perfection. The perfection was defined by the leaders, and their cooperating subordinates.

Below is a paragraph taken from the following website:
http://drsorotzkin.com/understanding_perfectionism.html

Perfection vs. Excellence
A perfectionist can be defined as someone who is driven by fear of failure to strive compulsively toward goals beyond reach and reason. This can be contrasted with someone who is motivated by the desire for success to strive for excellence (Hamachek, 1978). One of the characteristics that distinguish the pathological form of perfectionism from the nonpathological striving for excellence is how the person reacts to a less-than-perfect performance. Perfectionists not only derive no satisfaction from a less-than-perfect performance, they even experience a sense of humiliating defeat (Sorotzkin, 1985). In contrast, people who strive for excellence take pride in their effort, and derive a sense of pleasure from their superior performance even if it is less than perfect, because they accept both personal and environmental limitations (Pacht, 1984).

I cannot remember one incident where we were encouraged for having done a good job. According to the teaching, that would have encouraged our pride and self-love. We were always “corrected” for where the effort fell short. This was supposed to spur us on to greater effort, and if any praise came our way from outsiders, the credit was given to the leaders for having persevered to push us to the effort, never to us for having given the effort. This was particularly blaring in the Spirit of America Band.

Thumbnail History and Teachings

I was recently asked what my experience at CJ was like, and also asked some questions about their Christian doctrine. Here is what I wrote:

My experience at The Community of Jesus: a thumbnail history.

I entered the Community of Jesus with my husband in January, 1970 and lived there for 40 years. We raised our 3 children there. July 9, 2010 I left and now live in the Boston area.
I was raised in a family with a father who would burst out in anger at unsuspected times. It was mostly aimed at my brother & sister, but I learned to stay unnoticed to avoid his anger. My mother denied the affect this had on us, and was always trying to explain away his actions. This pre-disposed me to neither confronting angry authority nor walking away from it.
I spent 4 years, ’65-’69, in the Hippie culture of San Francisco. I was not raised in any religious setting, and was at a loss for a moral structure other than what I intuitively felt. I also had no framework in which to place my yearning for something more to life. At the end of these 4 years, I experienced a wonderful conversion to Christianity, accepting Jesus as my Savior. My husband and I married and moved to Massachusetts in ’69 so he could reconcile with his parents, who were Christian. A minister in Oregon referred us to a minister on Cape Cod, and he told us about a fledgling Christian community in Orleans, at Rock Harbor,. We started to go to the teachings. I knew nothing about Christian doctrine, and they talked a lot about the “deeper life” and being especially connected to God, which appealed to me.
After a couple of months, my husband and I were beginning to experience trouble in our relationship, and were feeling in need of help. We almost went back to the West Coast, but instead asked if we could stay a while at the Community of Jesus. We moved in with a woman who had bought one of the first houses there.
The very first day there was a misunderstanding, and since we were waiting hours past our appointment time, we asked one of the sisters, got permission, and went ahead and unpacked our car at the house we were assigned to live in. When we were called over to finally meet with the two founders, one of them went on a 5 minute yelling tirade at us that if we were going to live there we had to be strictly obedient. It didn’t matter how long they kept us waiting, we were not to do anything unless they told us we could. It was frightening and humiliating. It was my father all over again, and so right there I was set on a path of obedience and avoidance of confrontation. I was pregnant with my first child, and desperate for a secure home, and also did want to learn how to live for God. Their stress on obedience was the opposite of the free life I had been living, and seemed to be the antidote that we needed.
At first it seemed idealistic, that we were learning how to recognize and confess sin and building a new and better life of getting close to God. However, the teaching centered solely on sin and how we had to die on the cross daily, and there was no resurrection life or joy. It was all a sin hunt. At first I believed that this was the training necessary to be able to reach a state of peace and wisdom, but the longed for salvation, forgiveness and peace were always kept tantalizingly out of reach. They often compared us to the military, and how we had to be broken down and made to be obedient in order for a new life to grow in us. The teaching was not based on the forgiveness and love of God, but rather on how sinful we were. One leader would often teach us that we deserved nothing but hell, and it was only grace that we weren’t already in hell. Like all of their teaching, there is a kernel of truth in this, that we are sinners and God’s forgiveness is grace. But instead of helping us reach a balance, it was all focused on our sin in order to make us compliant and obedient. In the military boot camp they do humiliate, name call and break individuals down, but they also encourage a bonding and pride in working together. We did not get that building up part.
I was indoctrinated, brain-washed, and through fear was taught that I could not leave. If I did I would be leaving God, since He had called me here, and my life would go back to what it was, and much, much worse. Once we became a member, we were forever a member. Vows were taken in order to make the commitment binding. Even those who did not take vows were still under the social pressure of knowing that it would be wrong to leave. The two founders, and later the next leader, would talk against anyone who left, saying that they had “chosen the world”, had chosen to follow their own sinful passions, and would experience all kinds of pain and suffering, and probably die a terrible death. When we heard of one sister who had left, and eventually died, all the gossip was about how she must have had a terrible realization at the end of how wrong she was to have left. Anyone who contemplated leaving knew they would have to go through a gauntlet of “light sessions” where their “sin” would be strongly spoken against, and also that they would be considered the enemy if they did leave. I witnessed some of these sessions, and have experienced this since I left. No one will contact me, one very good friend who did write me for a while eventually told me to stop writing. While I was there we were told to cut off anyone who had left, as they were “out of their call, and would only cause us suffering if we talked with them”.
I was taught how to block any negative thoughts, and to suppress my feelings of pain and hurt. Anyone who expressed dissatisfaction with the teaching or the life of constant exposure was humiliated even more. It was called “correction” and “light groups”, from the scriptures about speaking to one another in love and living in the light. They twisted the concept of speaking to one another in love. It was often taught us that true love was being willing to be hard on each other, accusing one another of sin, and “going after” each other until the sin was confessed. This consisted of taking the person in question into a room, and a group of others would accuse and harangue you until you broke down in tears. Often the victim would confess just in order to be left alone. We were taught that we could not possibly know ourselves as well as others could see us, so if I was accused of being in anger, even though I did not feel angry, they were “picking up the truth” about me, and I had to accept their accusation. The founders would often teach on this, that whatever anyone else “saw” about us, we had to accept in humility and accept that it must be true, even if we could not see it ourselves. So it was not a personal conviction of the Holy Spirit, but rather a teaching that we had to accept any accusation that was leveled against us. Anyone who dared to try to defend themselves, or to say that they just didn’t see the truth of what was being said, was additionally accused of stubbornness and rebellion.
They practiced separation from your children, allowing other people to have the say on how they were raised even if they lived with you. They took one of my children away from me and had him/her live for almost a year with a couple of older teenage girls. We had a broken relationship for a long time because of this, and have suffered immense grief from what they did to us. I was caught in the trap. The harm they have done to me and my family was extensive. They essentially broke up my marriage and drove my husband away. My children were savvy enough to know the place was wrong, and at the end of High School 2 of them left. My oldest lived there for a few years as a Sister, but once she got an experience outside of the Community of Jesus (CJ) at a Harp Camp, she realized how wrong they were also. I was the one that was brain-washed the most, and therefore stayed the longest. It took 2 years of intense emotional pain for me to get up the courage to leave. It has been 3 years now that I have been out. I have recovered a lot, but am still in therapy to work on my triggers and emotional patterns, and I still deal with fear of incurring their wrath and reprisals.
I was never happy there. In the early years I took this as the work I had to do to get free from my sin. In the later years I did my best to ignore my pain. We were taught that any problem we had was our own sin, so if I disagreed with some of the teachings or the leaders’ actions, it was sin in me. I had no idea what critical thinking was. I finally got to the point, after my family had left, and I was left alone with my inner life, that I decided that I could not go on living in such a depressed state. I had to figure out what was wrong with me. That began 2 years of intense emotional struggling, trying to resolve my inner conflict at the same time as trying to make my vowed life there work. It was cognitive dissonance to the hilt. In the Rule of the Community of Jesus it states that any member can request a Leave of Absence (LOA) if they feel they have a spiritual need that requires some time alone to work on. I requested this LOA 3 times, was denied all times, and the 3rd time I was told that I had to leave, the next day, on a bus to Boston. I was kicked out at 63 years old with only $1,000 in my pocket, a suitcase and a bus ticket. I was homeless, jobless and scared. Although it was a cruel and unloving thing to do to me, especially since I was not asking to leave but was trying to get help to resolve my conflicts, it turned out to be the best thing they could have done to me. It opened my eyes to the true nature of the teaching and life at the Community of Jesus. God has watched over me and guided me into a new life. I am learning now what true Christianity is about.

I always assumed that the Bible was the Word of God, but the founders and later leaders didn’t teach that directly. They would teach from the Bible sometimes, but mostly they would teach from their own personal revelation of how to apply some of the scriptures to daily living. That was their charisma. They were always talking about how to apply scripture to our daily living. The teaching was all centered on personal wrongness. The heart of man is wicked, there is no good in me, and we have to go through the cross daily in order to come out into resurrection life. So there was the promise of getting to resurrection life, but in my 40 years there I never experienced it. I had moments of joy and inspiration and revelation, but I never reached a place of living in the salvation and joy of what Jesus did for us. The teaching was completely centered on the fact that I was wrong all of the time. Even if I wasn’t wrong factually, I was wrong in my attitude. If I argued my innocence in any particular situation, that meant I was wrong, because no one was supposed to defend themselves. To say anything in your own defense was sin, even if it was the truth.

The Divinity of Jesus was held to be true. The Trinity was believed in, accepted. The Holy Spirit was the one spoken of the most. It was a contradictory teaching. We were supposed to be connected to the Holy Spirit in order to hear God speaking to us, but if what I heard was different from what the leaders heard, I had heard wrong, and had to go back and keep praying until I heard the same thing they did. We were told that if a group prayed together for guidance, if we were all “in the Spirit” we would all get the same word/guidance. If we didn’t agree, then someone wasn’t hearing the Holy Spirit. Instead of allowing for each member to hear a part of the whole, this made us all conform to what the leaders thought was right. It also encouraged me to distrust what I ‘heard’ until I found out whether or not it agreed with authority. If what I thought/felt/heard from God was not conforming, then I suppressed it out of fear.

Jesus died on the cross for us, but…. We also had to die on the cross daily. They took that one verse, “He who would come after me must pick up his cross and follow me” and added the word “daily” to it in all their teachings. They made it the mantra for our daily living. In everything we were to die to our own desires. What to have for breakfast, what kind of job we worked at, what to watch on TV, die, die, die. Let someone else make the choices. If it bothered me, then my self-will was too strong and I needed to die to it. Every household and the Convent had someone(s) in charge, and they were the ones who enforced the rules. This set up a desire in us all to be considered obedient and good enough to be put in charge so we could have a little more freedom to make choices, as simple as those choices might be. This reward/punishment atmosphere produced more compliance and obedience in us.

Bodily resurrection was believed in but there was an interesting twist. The leaders taught that because we had been “called” together, that we would continue to be together in heaven. The leader told me once that even those who had left would be back in the “fold” in heaven, because they had been called there. They said that the mansions in heaven were groups like ours, and that we were building our heavenly place now by loyalty to the Community of Jesus.

They believe in the return of Jesus. We went through a phase in the 70’s where we all bought wood stoves and food that was vacuumed packed, and learned about eating off the land, because they thought the end was coming soon. That has died down, but the mentality is still there that they will be a beacon of light in the darkness of the end times, that people will flock to them for safety, and that they will not suffer any harm because they are special. Again, this had a kernel of truth in it, because if we trust in God, He will be faithful to protect and guide us. But the leader once said to us that everyone else who was not living here at the Community of Jesus was “dead”, indicating that we had the truth of God, and no one else did.

Perhaps the biggest harm they do is in the extreme stress they put on obedience to human leaders (who speak for God) and therefore suppressing any critical thinking of the individual. My obedience was through fear and suppression, not freely given through an informed agreement.

Abuse and threats: Yes. There was a little bit of slapping and hitting in the early days, but once that got exposed in the Chronicle coverage, we were told to stop that. However, the verbal abuse continued and continues. Threats are used constantly. Some are big like; you will go to hell if you leave, and some are small like; you can’t watch your favorite sports program unless you stop arguing with people. A loaded language phrase was “coming under”. No matter who spoke what to us, we had to “come under” in our attitude and response. Yes, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize I was sinning that way, I will confess my sin, etc., etc. In those last 2 years I was there, I was once accused of something so outrageous and immoral that I finally, for the first time, denied it and stood my ground. It was not true, and I was not going to let anyone say it was true. I went through hell for that. I was yelled at and repeatedly brought into the office for “light sessions” about my “sin” and the fact that I was so adamantly denying it made them think it had to be true. I stood my ground, and finally complained to the leader that it was not true and they would not leave me alone about it. This was the only time I actually “won” my case. She said OK, it wasn’t true, and to tell them to drop it. So I won my case that time, but it created a strain on my relationships with the sisters who I had to work with who had been involved in trying to get me to confess to something that was not true. To this day I believe that it was the leaqder that had told them to go after me about that. I believe this because I was party to her doing the same thing with other people. So there is a great deal of emotional abuse that goes on daily there. They don’t call it abuse, they call it training for heaven and dealing with sin, but it is not normal, it is extreme, and it is abuse. The cognitive suppression is also abuse. I was emotionally, intellectually and spiritually dying before I was finally able to leave. I was also suffering from extreme migraines brought on by the stress. I have not had a single one since I left.

Deprivation of sleep and nourishment both happen. Deprivation of sleep is used openly and is considered a legitimate and good way to train someone at anything. Excessive prayer vigil hours throughout the night are used to train you spiritually. Excessive practices in Band and Orchestra and Choir and Drama late into the night and then early the next morning are common. In the early days we were made to go on 40 day fasts. There was no choice, everyone had to do it. If you were caught cheating, you had to start the 40 days all over again. I witnessed this happening to several people. One year the fast was on grapes and water. I was so starved for nutrition that I ran home early from church to eat lettuce dipped in dressing. Another year it was bread and water. Some of us cheated and added cheese to the bread, and we were publicly yelled at and told to start the fast over again. Eventually I learned to self-medicate through food, and began to gain weight. After I became a sister in the Convent, I gained even more weight. I repeatedly asked for help to lose it, and was told, with disgust, that I should be able to control myself on my own and just eat less. This was indicative of all areas of need. If we had assimilated the concept of self-denial, we should be able to deal with any problems without help by just denying ourselves.
Even though we tirelessly worked on the upkeep of the grounds, in the offices, and on many projects, we were never praised or thanked for our work. I served in the Marching/Field Band for 30 years. I sustained injuries to my hip and knee and foot because they pushed us so hard. I finally had to retire from playing the keyboards in 2008 because I developed strains in my thumbs from the excessive practicing. I also could no longer march or do the strenuous exercises because of having strained/sprained my foot. I served an additional year as a coach, but even that proved to be too much for my foot, knee and hip, so I explained this and respectfully retired. I received a formal note from the Band leadership thanking me for my one year as a coach, but no mention of my 30 years as a playing member. I told the leader of the Community that this bothered me, that I felt my 30 years were totally ignored and un-appreciated. Her reply was “Well, who were you doing it for, yourself or God?” The clear message, and this was a part of the teachings, is that we do not deserve thanks for anything we do. It is all a duty to God, and much less than we should be giving.

Dance with Death or Dance with Life

Dance 1:

Dance with death or dance with life,
The whirlwind stirs up the strife.
How to figure which is which,
Confusion swirls – what a bitch!
Try as I might to ride the wave,
Plead as I might my God to save,
The whirlwind sweeps me along
And nowhere can I find my song.
The darkness descends, confusion reigns.
Where are the glory days of yore?
My dreams are shattered, my hopes wane,
The promises that I held before
Have flown. I grovel in my misery.
I lose my grip on reality
The thoughts I have so long suppressed
Descend on me with a great stress.
With quaking fear, stomach clenched,
– I’m dying and must not relent-
In desperation bold
I gasp and take ahold
Of courage in a manic spurt,
Even tho’ my soul doth hurt.

I write the note, I wait my fate
I pace the room till it is late,
Then comes the call at once to go
And talk with those who do know.
What will become of me?
Will I find help to be free?

The help is there, God has heard my plea
But it is not what I expect it to be.
Instead of care and loving help to once again my center find
I’m cast adrift to seek alone the framework of my mind.
I’m told that I’m no longer fit a member there to be.
“In cases like this it’s best that quickly ye
Be gone. Tomorrow’s bus you must take
And leave for good, your own way to make”.

Dance 2:

When man does ill, God’s love is true,
Cast out, my life begins anew.
The worst that they can do to me
Has actually worked to set me free.
Their true colors have now been shown,
And from their clutches I have flown.
I’m free! Can it really be?
I’m out! I would like to shout!

The sun begins it shining part
To heal and mend my broken heart.
I know not where this path will lead
But I do know this I need.
Where to live, how to eat,
Find a job, avoid the street,
Fear and panic share my heart
With joy and wonder for their part.

No home, no funds, where do I turn?
My friends and kids I soon do learn
Are there to help me make the change
From blind suppression to learn the strain
Of joy and freedom singing loud
Within my soul to lift the cloud.

A room of my own, family healing,
A circle of friends together sealing
The happiness that is growing
The love that God is showing.
It’s a mixture, to be sure,
But no doubts, the choice is pure.

My brain is tired but also eager
To learn and soak up through the ether
What others take for granted, I
Do with wonder catch on the fly.
Travelling through this world so varied, so much to learn, so much to gain,
It’s a journey of discovery, hills and valleys, joy and pain.
Through all that follows life abounds and all the parts make me whole.
Centered once again on growing, my heart and mind do find their goal.

Written in memory of the terrible state I was in leading up to my leaving, and the relief and healing I experienced once I was out. – Carrie Buddington 1/20/14

Letter to the magazine “The Living Church”

I noticed an editorial in this magazine about the coffee table book with pictures of The Church of the Transfiguration at the Community of Jesus. Below is the letter I sent to them in response, and below that is the editorial.

Jan. 20, 2014
Exec. Dir. Christopher Wells
The Living Church Foundation, Inc.
816 E. Juneau Ave.
Milwaukee WI 53202-2793
Dear Mr. Wells,
I noticed the editorial in your Jan. 5, 2014 issue about the book showcasing The Church of the Transfiguration and its artwork. I have lived at the Community of Jesus for many years and finally left. The practice of their life is severe to the extreme, to the extent that I and others who have left suffered emotional abuse while there. The questions raised at the end of the editorial are legitimate, and need further investigating. We who have left are not malcontents who could not “take it”, as the Community describes us, but are concerned people who feel we have been harmed. I think if you are going to praise the C. of J. in your magazine, you should also present a balanced report and look at the “darker side” of their life.
Sincerely,
Carrie Buddington

Elegance in Cape Cod
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Review by David A. Kalvelage

This is a stunning book with more than 200 impressive photographs printed on high-quality paper. It tells the story of the Church of the Transfiguration in Orleans, Massachusetts, the place of worship for the Community of Jesus, an ecumenical monastic community founded by two Episcopalians more than 60 years ago.

The Church of the Transfiguration
Edited by Donna Kehoe
Paraclete. Pp. 244. $69.96
This coffee-table-sized book is intended to be about the beautiful Cape Cod church where the community gathers for worship several times each day. The Romanesque edifice contains breathtaking artwork and offers a peaceful atmosphere for worship. But the story of the community is as impressive as the photographs of the building.

Cay Andersen and Judy Sorensen are credited as the founders. The two met at the Church of the Holy Spirit, Orleans, in 1958, and frequently afterward. Those meetings led to the formation of a small group of women who gathered weekly for prayer and Bible study. They professed their vows in 1968 and formed the Sisterhood of the Community of Jesus.

Through the years there were additional members, a chapel and other buildings, and eventually men became part of the community. Following 20 years of worship in a renovated pump house, the community spent several years planning, praying, working in groups, and enduring delays for the construction of the church. Groundbreaking finally took place on All Saints’ Day 1997, and the church was dedicated on the feast of Pentecost, June 17, 2000.

The church and other community buildings are situated on the south side of Rock Harbor, an inlet at Cape Cod Bay. The stone church is built in the style of a fourth-century basilica, meaning “hall of the king.” The book explains: “Hearkening back to one of the earliest forms of church architecture, the Church of the Transfiguration gave a 21st-century expression to this ancient design from which all Christians can trace their heritage.”

There is a tower that contains a set of 10 change-ringing bells, a columned atrium at the entrance to the church, and a lintel that tells the story of creation. These and other richly symbolic appointments — a fountain, lovely glass windows, a variety of stone figures, and mosaics on the floor and at the east end of the building — are beautifully illustrated in the book. On the walls, the story of salvation is told in fresco and stone.

Twelve murals on the clerestory walls illustrate the life of Jesus. The colorful artwork is marked by startlingly human faces, particularly a “procession” of saints along the north and south walls. At the east end is a massive mosaic of Christ returning to reign in glory at the end of time, overlooking a modest, free-standing stone altar.

The further one ventures into the book, the more one wants to see the community at worship. Photos show the community gathered for the Eucharist, processing into the church on Palm Sunday, celebrating the Easter Vigil, and at other times.

The book concludes with three short first-person essays about life in the community, and an appendix offers statements by the various artists whose work is displayed in the building.

There are currently 230 professed adult members in the community and an additional 160 oblates. Sixty sisters live in Bethany Convent and 25 brothers are housed in Zion Friary. Members have included Episcopalians, Lutherans, Pentecostals, Presbyterians, Roman Catholics, and others. They are involved in a daily life of prayer according to the Benedictine tradition that includes Lauds, Midday Prayer, Vespers, Compline, and the Eucharist.

Despite the vast detail presented in the book, I wound up looking for more. Are visitors welcomed? When are the services? What of the children pictured? How are they involved in the life of the community?

This is an impressive presentation of a religious community and its center of worship. Its story deserves to be more widely known.

David A. Kalvelage, retired editor of TLC, serves on the Living Church Foundation.

Another story from Band

In 2000 we dedicated the new church, The Church of the Transfiguration. It was a big deal, and so I was quite exhausted after all the work and meal preps and making a cake to feed 1000 people. (that’s another story) We were given the next day off from work to rest. The rest did not last long however, since the Band was going to be touring across the country on its way to Calgary to compete as a Field Band, for the first time, in the International Competition there in July, just a few weeks after this big dedication. We had to put in extra hours and days of practice because we were told our performance stank and we needed to shape up quickly. It’s a wonder they even wanted to take us there by the comments we constantly got. But in my opinion it was the Band leader’s undying dream to make a name for himself with a world famous Band. But it is only “to the Glory of God”, of course. (Do you detect a note of sarcasm there? How sinful of me) I was tired of Band, but did not want to be stuck at home. The chance to see the country and travel west again spurred me on to yet another year of exhausting, back breaking work that is doled out with plentiful rounds of criticism and punishments.

Here is an example of what we went through. I was part of the Pit, or Front Ensemble as it was sometimes called. We played the keyboards, drums, cymbals, and other miscellaneous instruments. We were in the doghouse, as the Band leader didn’t think we played well enough. So someone was assigned to whip us into shape. We were set up to the side of the field, and given a part of the music to play. We spent literally hours playing just the downbeat. If it did not sound perfectly together, as one note, he would yell at us to stop, and we all had to drop and do 10 push-ups or sit-ups. He conducted with a little pencil, and if we did not catch the small movement he made, down we went again for more push-ups. We spent more time on the ground than we did playing. It was a pointless exercise, intended to break our spirit. I became so tired I couldn’t see clearly, and lost some muscle control. I was dehydrated and shaking from exhaustion. After hours of this punishing, grueling work we were told to stop, but we received no word on whether we had improved or not. I don’t think improvement was the goal. I think punishment was the goal. I am not angry at the person for this. In other situations he was a very caring person and we were friends. So this is also an example of how we were forced to be cruel to each other.

The tour itself was a grueling trip, geared to the younger ones who can take long hours on the bus, long practices in the hot sun, sleeping on gym floors (air mattresses that were ‘telebegged’) and high carbohydrate meals. I endured it as I endured all of CJ life. I put my attention on the music, lost myself in that. In between playing, I kept a low profile and tried to find something beautiful to think about. Sometimes I succeeded, and sometimes I was deeply depressed in the loneliness of my inner self. I felt there was no one to talk to about it. I was sure one sister would have ratted on me, another would not have known what to say, and yet another would have been furious at me. I’m sure any of the leaders would have been disgusted with me and told me I had so much to be grateful for, and I just didn’t want to give myself to God’s work. I did not believe anyone would have cared about my pain, inner and physical, and would have thought me to be whining and selfish.

We did our first show in Denver CO. From there, before dawn, we were on the buses heading west. This is what I have gone for. The country is breath-taking. Through Glenwood Springs Canyon, into Utah, and through the Bad Lands, or whatever they are called. It tugged on my heart strings. I grew up out West and it called to me. We played another show on the 4th of July in the Cougar Stadium in Provo, Utah, and marched in the parade. I did not march as my feet were blistered and I could hardly walk. All my crew mates knew this, by the way. As I look back, it amazes me that I never received medical care in Band, except when I had the migraines and had to be cared for. Otherwise I was left to my own devices. It amazes me that they were so uncaring and callous, and it amazes me that I did not know that wasn’t normal, and did the best I could with it. I had nothing to compare it against. That is how I had always lived at CJ.

When we got to Banff National Park, we had a day trip to “enjoy” ourselves there. What I was hoping would be a relaxing day in the beauty of nature was a frustrating day of being made to wait around. The Community’s spiritual leader was talking spiritual stuff with each section of the Band. Each section got to hike up to the viewpoint while they were waiting their turn, except percussion. We supposedly were going to be talked to “next” and had to wait in the parking lot for several hours. Then it was finally our turn, and in my opinion it was banal, stupid stuff that she was spouting off about. When she decided she was done, we asked if we could now go see the viewpoint. There was hesitation, then a reluctant ok if we could get up there and back in 15 minutes, which was when the buses were leaving. I was so angry that I took off with the younger ones, and we practically ran up this steep path. My heart was pounding so badly that I actually got scared and thought I was on the verge of a heart attack. I slowed down and was ok, but I was so mad at her for spoiling a good outing that I was so looking forward to. That sounds childish, doesn’t it? I’m afraid that’s what life was reduced to. I desperately looked for perks wherever I could find them, because the rest of my life sucked.

We got to Calgary, practiced, did the show in the competition. I really didn’t care at that point about winning. It was just another gig and all the fun had been beaten out of me. We came in 2nd, and this was the very first competition we had ever been in. You would think we would be proud and happy about that, yes? No! The Band leader ranted and raved about how we were the best and the only reason we didn’t get first place was because the judges were crooked and always picked their home team to win. Now in my eyes, that is childish!