Beverly D’s Testimony, Part 3
If you’re not interested in history/horror stories of the old COBU,
please FEEL FREE TO DELETE THIS NOW.  For those of you who
have not read the earlier sections I posted (and possibly don’t want to!),
I have tried to modify each section, which was originally part of a
painfully long piece, so that each could stand alone.  I have also tried
to write as clearly and honestly as possible, even about things that
were (are) hurtful and/or embarrassing, but I am aware that other
brothers and sisters who were there may have differing viewpoints
about the same events.  I am and have been posting this to the group,
in the hope it may be healing/enlightening/helpful to others who are
still recovering from the experience of being a member of COBU.

New York in the summer of ‘77 was amazing, the city, the people, the
fellowship; the lofts and the way we’d pack into them for Bible studies,
the theater we’d meet in, the horrible dingy apartments up a zillion
flights of decrepit stairs (no elevators in OUR buildings, thank you),
the mass cereal and milk in the morning, and old gross stale food at
night, when you could get any.  Masses of people on the buses and
subways.  Hobos cleaning windshields (dressed and groomed not
significantly worse than many of the brothers.)  Cockroaches big enough
to watch all the way across the wide streets, and rats in the sewers big
enough to push the ‘Walk’ buttons for them.

Going to the garage at night to clean out the carpet cleaning machines
and restock the chemicals for the next day - it was VERY hard work
(so much for the idea of sisters as fragile and in need of protection!
Amazing how that and other ideas got pushed into a dark closet whenever
convenient!)  I know some of the sisters dreaded the task, but for me,
at 16, it was more invigorating than exhausting, the camaraderie, the soapy,
slightly moldy smell of the garage, the singing and laughing.  The night
we met in the loft above the garage for a sisters’ Bible study, and the
lights went out.  We thought we’d just blown a fuse - and of course,
among nearly two hundred sisters with handbags, we turned up a couple of
flashlights, and two sisters went down to throw the breakers or replace
the fuse.  Except, of course, it wasn’t just the loft, it was all of New
York that had lost power, and it stayed out for days.  I will never
forget our spooky walk from the loft to the apartment, brothers flanking
the sisters on all sides for protection, with not a traffic light,
streetlight, or any other light to be seen in all of the entire city of
New York.  The next day, after it became apparent that the power would
be out for a while yet, the little grocery shop owner below our
apartments gave us all his (formerly) frozen yogurt, free.

I didn’t do a lot of witnessing in New York, though I remember doing
some.  There were a lot of restrictions - couldn’t witness too near the
garage or apartment buildings, everybody was burned out, couldn’t do it
unless there were enough brothers with the sisters, other problems.
Mostly I remember working.  We all had our ‘groups’ within the business
- I remember at the meeting before groups were assigned/approved Stewart
mocking sisters as requesting assignments to certain groups, ‘Oooh, I
want to be in HIS group, he’s CUTE.’  Both because I was determined to
prove myself as NOT being the evil, corrupt woman I’d been labeled in
York, and because at the moment, the LAST thing I wanted was any kind of
issue with another brother, I choose a group headed by a brother named
Mark, and Sandy his wife.  I’d come to know and like Sandy, and because
their group did NOT have a number of ‘star brothers’ in it, it seemed
safe, low-key, relatively obscure.  Obscure was very appealing.  I’d
have preferred to be working with all sisters, but that wasn’t available
for me.

Our ‘section’ handled a part of Brooklyn that was largely Jewish and
Catholic.  Large apartment buildings, with all door jams bearing a
mezzuzah, or homes where Jesus was crucified in every possible nook and
cranny, along with ‘The Last Supper’ painted on black velvet, by
numbers, or as a paint-like print in a genuine imitation gilt frame.
But hey, most of these people had carpets, and most of their carpets did
need cleaning.  We weren’t allowed to actively witness while working for
the carpet cleaning company, lest we turn people off and lose business,
though if people specifically asked, we were allowed to talk to them
about Jesus.

 I’ll never forget the day Elvis died.  I was assigned, with a brother,
to go door to door flyering for the carpet cleaning business.  It was
really, really hot, and because we were supposed to ‘dress nice’ when we
went door to door, I was wearing a pretty blue and white sundress, which
was fairly comfortable, and matching blue platform sandals (remember
platform shoes!), which were not.  As platform shoes went, they didn’t
torture me at every step, but I had been looking (not that we had a lot
of time to go clothes shopping) for a more comfortable, ‘nice’ pair of
shoes to go flyering in, so far without success, so I was stuck with

Naturally, we were dropped off in a section of Brooklyn where every
house had a BIG flight of stairs out front, I think one of the Italian
sections where they all had white painted wrought iron railings.  And
then my period started, which I discovered when a very nice older woman
client let me use her bathroom.  I hadn’t expected it for several days,
had exactly zero ‘supplies’ in my match-book sized decorative purse, and
of course, no money.  I think we got something like five bucks a week
allowance, and I had spent most of mine earlier in the week.  I was
sixteen and HUMILIATED, to have to ask the brother to a) give me money
and b) help me find the nearest drugstore, NOW.

The brother I was with, whose name I have thankfully forgotten, was very
nice, but thick as a plank, as I tried to convey my urgent need in a
delicate, indirect way.  He just didn’t understand, why couldn’t I wait
for whatever it was I wanted till we went home?  And he doubted they’d
approve of him wasting the money he’d been entrusted with on trinkets;
it really would be better for me to wait and ask Sandy for the money
later.  I finally gritted my teeth and bluntly spelled out the nature of
my problem for him, wishing the ground would just swallow me up then and
there.  When he finally ‘got it’, he looked as embarrassed as I felt.
On the way to the drugstore, people began popping out of their houses,
shouting to us and to each other - ‘Did you hear?  Elvis just died!’
The whole strange day was too surreal, I still can barely believe it

Ronnie Chimeras from Allentown had discussed my experiences with some of
the older sisters in New York, who took it to a small handful of older
brothers.  After I’d been in New York about a month, Dave C. was
chastised for his behavior towards me, and was made to deliver a
personal, face-to-face apology to me, which I accepted in the name of
Jesus.  I felt like a hypocrite, since I was still not sure that Ronnie
was right and I WASN’T partly responsible, and Dave was very clearly not
at all sorry, but furious at receiving the reproof, and conveyed to me
with his tone and body language that HE still thought I was a slut.  I
never saw him again, which was a huge relief, and I don’t know if that’s
because the older sisters arranged it that way, or he did, or it was
just coincidence.

I was so happy to be allowed back in the fellowship, so ecstatic that
the older sisters didn’t think I was so awful after all, I bounced
through my time in New York, at one point being voted one of the ‘Most
Encouraging’ younger sisters.  Maybe I even was, who knows.  Among the
older sisters, I now felt warm and safe and secure, though still very
jittery around brothers.  But I realize now we all picked each other to
pieces, constantly, either directly, or more usually, subtly undermining
and questioning the ‘rightness’ until the brother or sister being
questioned had no idea which end was up, let alone which actions were
‘pleasing to Jesus.’  I was as guilty of it as anyone else.

One night two of the sisters in the apartment I was living in, Kathy and
Lou Ann, told me they were taking one of their lambs to see ‘Star
Wars.’  They were happy and enthusiastic about bonding with their lamb,
who really wanted to see it, and had heard good things about it from
other brothers and sisters in the fellowship who had gone.  I jumped
right in with dreck about how gee, wasn’t that kind of a worldly thing
to do, and wouldn’t it be better for their lamb if they spent the time
reading the Bible instead?  I don’t know if they did end up going or
not, but if they did, I’m sure I spoiled what would have been a fun,
innocent experience with the guilt trip I laid on them.  If they didn’t,
I probably drove a wedge between them and their lamb, who doubtless went
to see it without them and wondered why Christians were always so
uptight.  I didn’t mean
any harm, I was SURE that Jesus was speaking through me.  Now I’m sure
He wasn’t.  I’m still ashamed of that incident, and uneasily aware that
there were probably many, many other times I was prudishly judgmental
over things that, at sixteen, I had no business even opening my mouth
about.  I apologize here and now to any of you reading this, if you were
one of the brothers or sisters who were on the receiving end of my
‘Jesus inspired’ wisdom.  I am so sorry.

At the theater one night, Stewart was going on and on about the new
color tract we were going to print up, a picture of Jesus on the cross,
dripping with blood, and the inside being about how His blood has washed
away our sins.  I sat there and thought, gee, if I was a non-Christian,
that doesn’t sound very appealing - I’d want to get away from looking at
or holding something like that.  When Stewart asked for other ideas, of
course, most of the brothers and sisters thought this was a marvelous
idea ( I think, now, that if Stewart had pulled down his pants and
deposited a big wet stinking turd some people would have been
impressed.  Then again, in a sense, he did that many times, and we
were.)  My knees and my hands were shaking, but somehow I found the
courage to stand up and suggest the traditional picture of Jesus as the
Good Shepherd, with text about how He cares about and protects His
flock.  When the tract finally came out of course it
was all Stewart’s idea, straight from God, in the first place,  but
while I was in the fellowship I always felt a little secret pride at
Jesus having used me to bring people to the COBU through that image.
Since I left, I’ve felt a lot of guilt for the same reason.

To be continued...