Re: Struthers Memorial Independent Pentecostal Church
Date: November 08, 2022 09:22PM
I went to SMC for a while in the early 00’s as a teenager before leaving and never going back. I have been a lurker on here for probably 10 years now and have finally mustered up the courage to actually post.
I want to thank everyone who has posted on here over the years as you are really doing God’s work, helping to save people from this awful organisation and to heal after leaving. It really is appalling that there are so many of us who have genuinely suffered at the hands of SMC.
Is Struthers Memorial Church a cult? The church ticks many boxes of the definition of the word.
I have read every single page of this thread and so much of what I have read here resonates strongly and I share so many experiences with you all. I found the recent podcast with Samuel McKay to be very interesting, and I can relate to many of his experiences. I too found many at Struthers to be quite narrow-minded; oblivious to the greater world around them.
It is oddly reassuring to think that there were probably several of us sitting there at the same time on a Saturday night, heads down, eyes open staring at the floor as the final act of the meeting raged on around us, wondering what exactly we were doing there and hoping it would just hurry up and end.
I learned the following at Struthers:
1. Struthers Memorial Church is really the only church in the whole world that is holy enough or good enough for God, even though there are only some 10 or less branches globally. It’s odd that God apparently identified this relatively young and small church in Scotland to be the only true believers and followers of his word, but I suppose the Lord works in mysterious ways.
2. Everyone else in the world is wrong, and the church and its leaders are right. On everything. All the time.
3. If its fun, Struthers probably don’t like it and will strongly discourage it. TV, music, modern culture, exploring new things, doing something that the leaders don’t do themselves, moving outwith the reach of one of their churches, etc.
4. Attendance is expected, and there are many, many meetings to attend.
5. You shouldn’t have any friends outside of Struthers as these people are bad.
6. All kids should really attend Cedars School so that they can truly be holy.
Expected church attendance consists of Friday night, Saturday night, Sunday morning, and Sunday night between Greenock, Glasgow, and your local branch. Once you factor in travel and time spent chatting to people after the meetings, this can easily add up to 20 hours in a single weekend. What the Struthers faithful sadly don’t realise is that this level of attendance is just not normal, or healthy in any sense of the word. Some will even attend meetings midweek in addition to the four weekend meetings. It is exhausting, and makes it impossible to accomplish anything in your own life since you are constantly on your way out to the next meeting. I suppose this way the congregation simply don’t have time to think about anything else in their lives, so SMC is the first and most important thing on their minds at all times. Very clever.
As a child I always found it odd that so many members would leave and never come back. Kids that you considered to be friends would just disappear, never to be seen again. I remember asking other kids once what had happened to certain friends of ours, only for them to tell me “We’re not allowed to talk about them”. If the church is so great, why do so many people keep leaving?
It always disturbed me as a child to hear it implied in meetings and from other churchgoers that even other churches weren't as good and holy enough as SMC. I worried about the people in these churches who obviously thought they were doing the right thing but would find out at the pearly gates that they had not been holy enough because they didn't attend Struthers. If other people in Scotland hadn't found Struthers, how would people overseas find it and then be properly saved? Well I suppose the church did do an outreach program where they sang in a shopping centre and put on play in their own buildings attended mostly by SMC members so I guess we have done our bit for all mankind...
I don’t ever remember enjoying or actually being happy at any point during any meeting I went to which in hindsight is mad. Just sheer relief when it was finally over, and you had lived to survive another meeting. Sunday meetings were usually lower key affairs by SMC standards. Saturday nights were the big, intense, meetings where the large congregation were all really up for it and all sorts of stuff would happen. Then you had the camps, which somehow manage to be on another level altogether. I dreaded the camps more than anything else.
I attended the youth camp in Biggar. Looking back on it, it was completely unhinged and child services should really have shut it down a long time ago. Multiple meetings a day which were a carefully coordinated emotional assault on vulnerable kids who had no other choice but to conform and accept what was launched at them. I wonder if the owners of these venues know what is really going on.
If you didn’t accept what they told you, they would make your life difficult during camp and then again back in normal life as well. You had no choice but to accept and play along, and hope you could somehow survive until the last meeting was over on Friday. You couldn’t just leave, as Biggar is in the middle of nowhere. You were stuck in this place where they knew where you slept, where you would eat, and monitored attendance at meetings to give you a bollocking if you dared to skip one. Trust me, I know this.
I dreaded every meeting at camp, which was difficult because all the other kids seemed to look forward to them. At the famous Wednesday night meeting I was told that I had demons inside of me. This came as a surprise as I wasn’t aware of being possessed before this, having exhibited no symptoms previously and having lived a very average lifestyle. I’m very thankful to the Latigo site that has helped me understand just how preposterous this accusation was. According to SMC leaders I was doing everything in my life wrong, and God would make sure to punish me for this if I didn’t change my ways. Every meeting that whole week was a total, all-out assault on your mental being. It was both exhausting and in hindsight, quite disturbing.
This emotionally abusive behaviour was impossible to process as a child. The truth about SMC is that the leaders are cowards who are not accountable to anyone. I see that Alison Speirs is listed on their website as “responsible for all matters of child protection”. I find this very alarming, as she was one of the main people dishing out much of the emotional and spiritual abuse.
Overall, SMC left me feeling a worthless outcast, hated by the leaders and unwelcome by the congregation, and all of this was apparently all my fault even though I was only a child living a very normal and otherwise uneventful life. I still have no idea what I did wrong or how I displeased those in charge so much. It was an emotionally and physically exhausting experience. I have never regretted leaving or considered returning. It has taken me over 10 years to properly process the whole ordeal. I know that I have been mentally scarred by my experiences there and I sometimes still struggle with it all.
In my view the leaders need to be held accountable for their own actions and should face consequences for the abuse they have inflicted on good people for decades.
Coming on here and reading so many stories of people who have found their way out of this organisation makes me so happy that people may actually find peace and happiness now. I hope more people can continue to escape their own prisons of belief that they are stuck in, and that this forum and the Latigo site can continue to help others as much as they have helped me.
I am thankful and proud of every one of you who has left SMC and posted on here sharing your experiences. And to anyone currently in Struthers having doubts about the church and reading this: What you are feeling is completely normal, very valid, and justified. You are not the only person who has felt the way you do. We have all been there in your shoes at one time. I have never felt so free as the time I left Struthers. There is a big world out there full of love, happiness, fun, and opportunity. There are even other churches that you will enjoy.
The tiny bubble of Struthers is only a drop in the ocean of what the world has to offer us. Life is short, I recommend seeing what is in the rest of the ocean too.