Oppressive, religious, strict, controlling, fear-installing, secretive, emotionally suppressive... These would be the words that would begin to express some of my memories of my early childhood in the Exclusive Brethren sect.
Other, more pleasant, memories would include family times, laughter, music, singing and a sense of community. But most of these originated within our own home.
I was born into the exclusive Brethren cult. Before the age of ten - when we were excommunicated - my childhood memories consist mainly of the controlling church system we grew up in.
It infiltrated and influenced every part of our lives, how we expressed our emotions, the roles of men and women ( strongly misogynistic).
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We had no TV, no radio, no fiction books, newspapers, magazines, and outsiders were not allowed to come inside for a cuppa.
My parents struggled with many of the rules and regulations. The many changing rules depended on the King Pins or Top leaders. They called it the Man of God's whim or personal interpretation of the Bible.
As a result of my parents asking questions and seeking truth, they were shut-up or put in coventry for not complying to certain pathetic rules such as not putting their hair down or wearing a head covering.
My mum confronted them and said they were elevating men to the position of god and challenged that the were fast becoming a cult.
Consequently, we were excommunicated. This involved being completely cut off from having any contact with family members still remaining within the cult.
To those of you asking why we didn't leave sooner, it meant saying goodbye to a lifetime of friends and family, in most cases, forever. My mother never got to see her older brother again.
I personally just found some cousins I never knew existed after 46 years. Oh the joy!
Bearing in mind this had been our whole existence and we had to attend meetings almost every evening and about six meetings on a Sunday starting at 6am. Those breakfasts out were quite a nice social event.
This is just a wee part of my story. Following leaving the EX Brethren my life consisted of facing fear tactics and bullying received through the cult we had been brought up in and some deprogramming.
What I observed my parents facing was nothing short of torturous and physcological torment. My father was asked to leave his wife and six kids and, to his credit, he stayed with us.
I am so proud they had the resilience, fortitude and conviction of their own beliefs, based on truth and freedom, to get us out of that oppressive cult.
So thank you to my late mother and father. Thank you for giving us the freedom to choose, love, laugh and live and embrace faith that sets us free!