Re: Struthers Memorial Independent Pentecostal Church
Date: February 24, 2024 03:05AM
I attended Struthers for several years as a teenager back in the 90s. Honestly, I miss those days a lot. If I didn't live in a different continent now, I think I'd probably want to go back.
Was it a cult back then? I don't think so. Is it now? I don't have any way to know, but I doubt it. I think what it was, and still is, is a group of diverse people who don't always agree, without any real formal structure of leadership or constitutional framework, all earnestly trying to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and often getting it right. Often, but not always.
I do think some cult-like behaviours emerge from that kind of society, though. I think some members were over-willing to surrender control of their lives to the leadership, and some of the leaders perhaps accepted that responsibility when they should have found ways to teach personal growth instead. I think an atmosphere of joy was promoted and achieved, but a strange kind of joy that was very serious and often disdainful of humour. I think there was an unspoken, even unintentional shunning of former attendees.
I guess I was shunned. At the age of sixteen I made the mistake of falling for a girl outside church, who was a Mormon, and on exactly two occasions I accompanied her to her church for a social event. That was the extent of my involvement with the Mormon church, and indeed it was the extent of my relationship with the girl in question. I don't know how Struthers people became aware of this, but they did, and I was suddenly no longer welcome. My friends were no longer my friends. I was almost physically hustled out of the coffee shop when I went to buy a CD.
If I had been a stronger, or wiser, or more mature person I think I would have been able to remain at Struthers, but I was a sixteen year old and instead I just stayed away, feeling sad and bitter. I soon joined the Church of the Nazarene, which I have been faithful to ever since, and I remember how different it felt to be in a more mainstream church, easier, more friendly... it was a huge relief. But I also missed the shared experience of deep worship that I knew at Struthers, and that I have never found anywhere else since.
So, I'm no Struthers fanboy. They hurt me back in the day. But still, I'd go back in a heartbeat if I could. I'd go back with my eyes wide open, aware of the flaws and weaknesses of any human organization, aware that Struthers is not exempt from them, and most of all, knowing that whatever its faults are they are not the result of some deliberate master plan to control people, but merely the human failures of good people trying to do what they believe is right, and sometimes getting it wrong.
So, no, I don't think they're a cult. I think they're just a group of people, a church, who share a particular deep and mystical experience of worship, and whose leaders don't always have the experience or judgement to handle complex situations well.
I will say that the rise of Andrew Jewell as a leader gives me a lot of hope for the future of Struthers. He was my close friend, back in the day, and he is a genuinely kind, patient, and funny man.
I suppose I might be able to answer any questions anyone has about those days. I even know who owned Cedars :D