Re: Struthers Memorial Independent Pentecostal Church
Date: June 16, 2012 11:36PM
It's been many years since I attended SMC and it's quite alarming to me to read about the church in so many sites and confirming what I have secretly felt for years!
The church was founded by Hugh Black (then a teacher at Port Glasgow High school) in the 1950's. The original church consisted of Hugh Black (known as 'Totty Black' to the school kids) and a bunch of kids from his RE class. My dad was one of those kids and he eventually ended up as pastor of the Port Glasgow branch. It's worth noting that the memebers of the church built the Port Glasgow branch themselves, being from all different trades. I should also point out that my dad is an excellent and very funny preacher and was nothing like the present leaders of the church. He didn't preach doom and gloom but taught love and respect for each other and allowing God to be present in our daily lives (all very normal stuff interspersed with enough funnies to keep even the youngest kids interested).
As a result of my Dad being pastor, of course I was brought up in the church and lived for my first 16-18 years of life in constant fear of the main church leaders in Greenock finding out how bad I'd been and announcing my atrocities to the whole church, from the platform (yes, that did actually happen to many perople who attended the church and 'strayed from the path of righteousness'). It was particularly difficult being a young girl in the church in those days because the leaders would watch you like a hawk and if you so much as said 'Hello' to the good-looking boy on the next pew, you were damned and in need of excorsising of your demons, furthermore there was no redemption for the 'harlots and Jezebells' so you were ulitmately doomed anyway no matter how you cut it.
My closest friend left the church when she was 16 under a cloud of 'Demon Posession' because she had become pregnant and wasn't married and I was left with no one really who understood the oppression and guilt the teachings left me with. Some of those sermons could last for three or more hours solid and that's not a jokey way to spend your Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights! (Actually we attended church six days a week, Tuesday being the only night off because it was the adults prayer meeting).
I would say the church is very totalitarian although I'm not sure I would go as far as to call it a cult but they do drum into you that SMC is the only church with the TRUE answer to life; but many other churches, temples and holy houses believe the same thing of themselves.
I do believe god works in SMC (or did back in those days) because I can't ignore the spiritual experiences I had while in the group but I also believe that the leaders of the church (who are all completely different from the days when I attended between 1963 and arounnd 1980) are quite full of their own self-importance and tend to dictate to the members of the congregation how they should live. But we are being dictated to by governments, royalties, leaders of this group or that every day of our lives anyway.
The point is that, although SMC teaches that you should not question anything you are told because it comes from God in the first instance, it is natural and sensible to question absolutely everything in life. How else can you learn what is right for you?
I should point out here that there are very few of the original members left in the church congregation today and I would probably not recognise anyone now apart from a couple of the leaders.
My own decision to leave the church permanently was made because the pastor refused to marry me and my husband since my husband was not a memeber of the church and this meant that we were "unequally yolked" (not sure where in the bible that one comes from but it was a favourite sermon of the day). It left me with a bitter taste in my mouth as I'd known the pastor and attended the church all of my life and yet, a few weeks prior to my asking him to perfofm the ceremony, he married a young couple and neither of them belonged to the church. I often wondered if that meant the couple were "equally yolked" because neither were members of the church and obviously 'on their way to hell' anyway? I don't know, I never asked for the reason - I just left the church and didn't go back.
Anyway, I'm older and wiser (I think) now and I know that you can be close to God and a very spiritual person even without attending any church at all. Sometimes religion gets in the way of God and spirituality and we see that every day where wars and terrorism are begun in the name of God (now that's shameful).
None of my family attend SMC anymore and instead they attend a different Evangelical church where the people are REAL and the pastors don't put themsleves up on pedastals to be revered by their adoring congregation and I have to say, my family are all so much happier and fulfilled in life than they were in those days of constant self flagellation and guilt about not being good enough for God.
It is good to remember that religion (no matter what it is) is a man-made institution and, for the most part, is designed to keep people apart rather than bring them together. The bible tells us that God lives inside every one of us and not in a brick building with a spire, clock and weathervane. We all have the power of God inside us, if we are willing to recognise that fact. We are not just human bodies, the body is just a space suit which allows us to survive on this planet, our essential self, the true us is spiritual and it's the spirit of us that carries on after the body dies. There is no church, temple, synagogue etc. in the world which can keep the spirit inside its walls and my ultimate conclusion over the years has been that what really matters is that we live the way God intended us to live by loving and caring for each other and helping each other through hard times.
We don't need a church or a pastor to tell us this, it's common sense... "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" or differently "An' it harm none, so be it" these are phrases from two quite different teachings - the Bible on one hand and the Book of Sorrows on the other. The point is, they mean the same thing - live a good life and don't cause anyone any harm and, if you do hurt someone, ask for their forgiveness and make things right with them - that, I believe is the true teaching of the Bible, the Koran or any other holy book you care to mention; regardless of what the religious groups or cults try to teach you beyond that very simple rule for living a spiritual and fulfilled life.
I can't, in all honesty, comment on SMC as it is today but judging from what I have read here and on other similar sites it seems to be actually worse than it was back then; although when I was 16 years old it felt like a millstone round my neck on a daily basis because I could never be good enough to be truely loved by God... now I know better and I hope this is helpful to whoever reads it.
Thanks for your time and letting me get it all off my chest!