For what it is worth, this is a short story
of my life in COBU (Sep
'76-Dec '78). I have not attempted here to describe the whole range
experiences I had while a member of the fellowship. Suffice it to say,
almost all of my time there is remember very fondly. Even the difficult
times were mostly good lessons for life.
I believe; it is people that touch people,
whether spiritually by faith
in Christ, by good and kindness or by evil and cruelty, by love and acts of
compassion or by hate. It is through other people that we learn about life.
It is through our interactions with others that we learn to understand
ourselves and we frame a picture, or perception, of the world around us.
Therefore, I cannot help but retain an all together positive memory of my
experience in COBU. What little unpleasantness I may have experienced is
far outweighed by the goodwill which I received and which I witnessed being
displayed by all the members of the fellowship. And so, by reading the
stories and comments of others at this site I am prompted to add mine here.
If anyone who reads this text and cares to comment: "Hey, I remember you",
or "I was there then too", then fine it is.
My name is Jack Kelly. I became a member
of COBU in Philadelphia about
September 1976. Peter Jaquay was instrumental in my confession/conversion.
I got saved at a big meeting held on a farm (in Maryland, I think). I
think there was a water stream on the farm property and I was baptized that
Sue Rice was also instrumental in my conversion.
In the summer of 1976
I was fresh out of high school. Sue's younger brother was a friend of mine
and I stopped by his family's home to see him. Sue was at the house
visiting her family, I think she was living in the fellowship already. She
witnessed to me on her family's front porch and invited me to a big meeting.
Camping-out on a farm for the weekend sounded like fun. I was the kind of
young person who was game for anything that seemed to hold out the promise
Drexel Hill borough in Upper Darby township outside West Philly is
where I'm really from. This is Sue's hometown, it's also the hometown of
John and Joan Thomas. I'm not sure if Marie Thomas (John's wife) is from
Upper Darby. I have not seen or heard tell of Sue, John, Joan or Marie in
nearly nineteen years, but, I remember and recall them fondly.
About that time in autumn '76; the COBU fellowship
in the Philly area
was set up in some kind of warehouse in the city of Camden, New Jersey.
Very shortly after I began coming around, the Camden warehouse closed-up and
the fellowship moved into a three-story brick row-home on 44th street in W.
Philly. The house was on the corner, it was frightfully dirty and
dilapidated at the outset. It was located on the fringe of the 'University
City' area, near U. of P. and Drexel U. I think the house was abandoned or
vacant prior to the fellowship opening up there. I moved into the
fellowship during the time it relocated from Camden to Philly.
Bob Hildenbrand was the designated 'fellowship
leader' (his wife Cathy
and a two year old daughter were with him). Peter and Diane Jaquay were
residents. Peter was my mentor/guardian and Diane, his wife, kind of
adopted me as well. Sue Rice, Joan Thomas, were at the fellowship house.
Also, I think Terri Meyers. There was a related fellowship house up outside
Northeast Philly. John Dougherty was the designated leader of that group.
John D. was always a cheerful, friendly and a strong spirited brother. I
think I remember Sean Gallagher from this time. There was another brother,
who's name I can't recall, from my hometown, and I'm sure several other bro
& sis whose names I can't remember.
Within about six months, there was quite an
upheaval at the W. Philly
fellowship. I think that the number of 'new saves' and another 'number' of
those visiting the fellowship for bible studies in Philly was very low. At
the same time, there were reports of many 'getting saved' and many
hundreds(?) visiting the fellowship center in the north jersey Hackensack
area. Somehow, the brethren in Hackensack were supposed to be better
examples of what we ourselves should be doing. The remarkable success
occurring in Hackensack seemed to be credited to several 'strong brothers';
Dave Rizzetto, Jay Edelman, and Frank Giordano are some I recall. The
brothers from Hackensack came to Philly to show us how it should be done. I
remember that we were all supposed to be happy to greet them and be willing
to 'follow their lead', but, of course there was plenty of dread and anxiety
on our part. I don't know how everything was said and decided but the
upshot of the Hackensack visit was a wholesale house cleaning of the
brethren who were in Philly. I guess Bob and Peter were told they needed to
get 'healed' in New York. I think that this need to get healed in NYC
included just about everyone there. I think that I was not considered
'sick' since I was quite new to the Spirit. But, I was seeing everyone I
knew leaving, so I said, "Me too!". As I said, anything that hinted at
adventure was fine for me, and the 'Big Apple' fit that bill.
In NYC I first stayed in a big warehouse loft
in the 'Hell's Kitchen'
area. There was some kind of large back room to this loft that seemed to
serve as a church office. Stewart held nighttime meetings here. I remember
when the carpet cleaning business was first introduced at one of those
nightly meetings in that loft. Eventually I worked in that business from
about the summer of '77 till early in '78.
Before I was too settled in NYC, I was one
of several people picked to
go and either 'reinforce' of 'start-up' a fellowship-house in Syracuse, NY.
Whatever the purpose of my being there, it was short-lived, and I was back
in NYC. Wouldn't you know it, I was picked again to go to Columbus, Ohio to
help start a fellowship. John Thomas was the leader of that expeditionary
party. He knew me, I guess that's why I got picked and I was still quite
young in the Lord. Columbus, Ohio lasted a bit longer than Syracuse, NY,
but it ended in my recall to NYC and it may have been a general recall of
the whole fellowship there.
As the carpet business was growing in leaps
and bounds in the summer of
'77, I moved out to Brooklyn with it. I'm not sure if this was the first
expansion of COBU into Brooklyn, but I think it may have been. In Brooklyn,
I remember Alvin Brown, a black brother from the south. I fondly remember
Alvin as an easygoing, down-to-earth and good-humored brother who was about
ten years older(+) than me, and I enjoyed being around him. There was
another brother who was albino/black and wore very thick eyeglasses. He was
from the south also. We were doing carpet cleaning work in a very poor
section of Bedford-Styvesant. He was robbed/assaulted at gun-point in an
elevator of a housing project there. At some point in my stay in Brooklyn,
Jimmy Griener came to the fellowship place and it was like when the
Hackensack brothers came to Philly. I got the feeling he came to straighten
things-out there. From there I think I went back again to the Westside of
I think it was at this point; when I came to live
again in Manhattan,
from Brooklyn, that I began to feel alone, out of place and detached. I
'ran-away' for about five months to Florida. Then came back. Then left
again for a couple of months and returned once more. After two departures,
I was really on the fringe of the brethren. At that point I could only
really be friends with the others who were in and out, and on the fringe;
Mitch St.Germain and Walter Wysorek were fringe dwellers with me at that
time. I remember that Mitch and Walter and I were living in a condemned
building near 54th St. and 10th or 11th Ave. That was the winter of '78.
Boy oh boy, it was a pitiful situation. Walter and I hung-out together. We
both gave-up on ourselves being able to stay in the fellowship, and
eventually we traveled to Florida together and got jobs and stayed with his
grandfather. Walter and I parted ways in the early summer of '79. And that
is pretty much the last I ever saw or spoke with anyone in COBU.