Tom’s Story: I was born September 4, 1928. I was the 9th child born into the Schroeder family. My Mother was 17 and Dad was 30 when they married in 1916. Their names were George & Lucy Schroeder. They had 13 children between the years 1918 and 1935: 6 boys and 7 girls. I grew up on a dairy farm in northern Wisconsin in the Township of Germania where the nearest town was Wittenberg.
In the Wisconsin rural areas, there was a one-room schoolhouse for grades 1 thru 8 situated three miles apart. There was one teacher and about twenty children. There were no school buses, Mother didn’t drive and we walked to school in all kinds of weather, barefoot in the warmer months. There were usually around 5 or 6 Schroeder children in school at the same time. My highest education was the 8th grade, which I completed when I was around 14 years old.
Sometime around 1921, my parents went to gospel meetings being held by two workers in our one-room school house. They professed, and their 13 children were raised in the 2×2 meeting system. At the time they professed, Mother was 22, Dad was 35, and I had not been born.
In 1922, Mother and Dad attended their first convention which was about ten miles from our home. While there, Mother went up to her worker and asked him if all these people were going to go to heaven. He told her, “Well, it will do good if half of them get there.” As we kids were growing up, if we didn’t obey all the laws, rules, etc., Mother would say to us, “Do good, for only half of us will get to heaven.”
Mother told us that in those years, they would pass the bread and wine around on Sunday at convention, as there were not many people, but as the membership grew over the years, the workers said they were going to quit that practice, as it was too time-consuming.
My Dad was a good listener and he soon told Mother that they learned more about the Bible in the church they went to before they professed. But she told him that going to meetings and conventions was the only way that could get them to heaven, and they must obey the workers in whatever they would preach.
Dad told my Mom about a time when he was at convention, and he heard three workers talking about when this religion got started over in Ireland. He didn’t know the workers’ names and my Mom didn’t think this was true. Then, as the years went by, ever so often Dad would remind Mom that this was only a manmade system, but she still insisted that it went back to Jesus’ day.
When I was reaching the age when kids stand up to profess, my mother began to tell me these stories about convention. She said in the early ‘20s between the meetings, people would be sitting in groups under the trees reading their Bibles and talking about what they heard in the meetings and they seemed so dedicated, and yet God would take only half of them to heaven and discard the other half. She said that was scary, and told me that I would soon be getting old enough to profess, and soon I did, and she was right. It was scary.
In 1941, when I was 13 or 14 years old, I stood up in a convention night meeting to show that I had chosen to become part and parcel of that group. After the meeting, not one person came up to talk to me and everyone stared at me with such a long face that I wondered if I had done something wrong. Yes, a terrible trauma for kids to have to go through and so much of it is based on fear. I suffered panic attacks for the next 15 years.
In my late teen years, on the first day of convention before the afternoon meeting, my beautiful 17-year-old sister walked over to me to talk. A brother worker walked up to us and shook his finger six inches from my nose and said to me, “No dear hunting allowed on these grounds, do you understand?” Then he turned and went to the machine shed. My sister said to me, “What’s his problem?” If that worker had used some common sense, he could have just said, “Hello, it’s good to see you young folks here attending this convention,” and then gone on his way.
When I was 20 years old, a worker asked me if I would like to go out into the work.
I said, “No.”
He said, “Well, if you don’t become a worker, then you will always be a NOBODY for the rest of your life.”
I asked him, “What if I did?”
He said, “Well, if you become a worker, you will always be a SOMEBODY.”
MARRIAGE & FAMILY
I married my wife, Geraldine Richter, a little over a year after we met, on June 4, 1954. She was 22 and I was 26 years old. She was born August 16, 1932, and she also grew up in the meetings. Her parents were Terry and Signe Richter, and they professed in 1932 in a mission held by Hilda Blaue and Ellen Johnson. Their oldest son, Gilbert Richter, went into the work in 1948. He was 12 years in Minnesota, and then he moved on to become the head worker of New Mexico for 25 years, and then he moved to North Dakota where he was Overseer for 20 years, until he died on May 29, 2005.
When Geraldine and I married, professing brides were not allowed to wear white wedding dresses in Wisconsin. So they bought some blue-green material and her Mom sewed the wedding dress, and it had to be made very plain so that she could wear it to other events. Well, she never wore it again!!! I read in the Bible about white robes that will be handed out up in heaven. If we are going to wear white up there, wouldn’t it be good to get used to it here?
I heard Frank Porter (brother worker) say at Special Meeting, “I’m going to tell you one more thing and that’s about weddings. You people that are getting married–your weddings are getting just like the worldly people–the only thing lacking is the church building–Watch it!!” My Mom used to tell us that back in the ’20s and ’30s, workers used to preach against weddings at convention, as they expected that all young people should go into the work.
My wife and I had 3 children, two daughters and a son. Marilyn was born in 1955, Karen in 1958, and David in 1960, and they all professed. I was in charge of the Landscape Department of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois for thirty years until I retired, from 1962 to 1992.
The workers put a Sunday morning meeting in our home and it was held there for 20 years. You would think that would have been the beginning of “Where all is peaceful calm and still, I rest beneath His care” (Hymn 313). But that was not to be. Our home became a stressful place, a home filled with sorrow.
While I went to meeting, I defended the workers and did as much for them as I possibly could. I rented buildings for them to have gospel meetings in and I paid the fees. I rented big auditoriums that would accommodate 400 people all day Sunday for special meetings, and I paid the fees. I stayed up all Tuesday night before convention and would bake 24 loaves of cinnamon-raisin bread and bring it to the kitchen at convention on Wednesday evening where a sister worker would tell me, “That is going on the workers’ table.” (Now, I feel like the Pharisee when he told what all “HE” did.)
Over 40 years ago an outsider couple began to attend the Chicago Gospel meetings. Well, after three meetings they told the workers they would like to come to Sunday morning meeting at our house too so they could see how that went. So after thinking that over a few minutes the workers said it would be OK.
But the next day the workers told us they didn’t think it was a good idea but maybe the couple would think there was something wrong if they were not welcome to come on Sunday morning so then, the workers told us that they would be at our house on Sunday morning, too. Well, the next three Sundays the couple came and the workers came too, and they came to the gospel meetings in between.
On the fourth Sunday, the workers finally went to another house for meeting and would you know, that morning during testimony, the man spoke and said that he wanted to give his heart to God and from this moment he wanted to be included in this wonderful loving family and fellowship that the rest of us were in.
My wife called the workers and told them that this man professed in meeting today. WOW!! That almost caused an earthquake, “We will be over to your house soon,” they said. Well, I had never warmed up very much to those two workers, so I had a feeling that they would not be too happy that someone got saved. Well, it was worse than I expected. They soon arrived, and they asked, “What did he say? How did he say it?” I told them.
“Oh no,” they said, “it doesn’t work like this, it doesn’t count because he must profess in the gospel meeting by us.” So they wanted to annul it.
“Wait a minute,” I said, “he gave his heart to God in the meeting this morning and now, you are telling God that he can’t have it and that you are going to take it back from God?”
Well, let me tell you if looks could kill I wouldn’t be typing here tonight, and let me tell you between one and ten, that our status dropped from a five to a three, and all this because someone got saved but not according to the way their system works.
When my daughter Marilyn was about 16, she and another girl made plans to go and help at convention preps for a week. The head worker said Marilyn could not go because she wore her dresses two inches above her knees. So, Marilyn found some dresses that were two inches below her knees, and it must have passed the 2×2 systems rules and regulations, as they let her go. I am sure the workers use a cheaper ruler that God does!
One summer in the ‘70s, there was going to be a baptism and Alan Anderson (brother worker) came over to our house to ask my son and daughter, David and Karen, ages 15 and 17, if they wanted to be baptized. They told him they did. Alan then instructed them, “After you are baptized, you cannot go on any more long ski trips. Do you understand?” What was it we used to sing? “Oh, how sweet the glorious message?”
I had meeting in my home over 20 years and sometimes after meeting a worker would take me into the bedroom, shut the door and tell me what I was doing wrong. One thing was that I wasn’t demanding that my teenage daughters wear their hair in a round bun on top of their heads. Marilyn and Karen always wore their beautiful blond hair down. That bothered the workers, so one Sunday, Paul Lyons (a worker) came to our home for meeting. When it came time for Paul to speak, he told ME what chapter and verse to read for him. I turned to the place, and when I saw what it was, I hesitated. Again, he told me to read those verses out loud for him. While all the eyes in the room stared at me, I said to myself, “Suffer it to be so now,” and I read them. “Now,” he said, “that is exactly what I’m going to preach about today,” and on and on he went making a big ado about women’s hair. Now, I’m sure some people went home from that meeting and said, “My, we sure had a sweet meeting today…….why even the elder had the privilege to assist the worker in the little meeting.” Little did they know how much my wife wept over that incident.
In 1972, my daughter who was about 17 came home from high school and my wife told her to go into the living room to say “hello” to William Lewis, the Illinois head worker. Well, she soon came back through the kitchen crying, and said, “Mom don’t call me down for dinner.” And she went up to her room. Well, my wife soon went up and asked what happened. Karen said she asked William a question about something in the Bible, and William told her that he was not going to answer her. He said she was old enough to know the answer by now, and seeing that she didn’t, she could find it in the Bible herself.
My wife was going to have a graduation party at our house and the workers somehow heard about it. Weldon Burgess (a worker) rang the doorbell and my wife opened the door and they told her at the door that they were against graduation parties. He asked if she had already bought all the food and drink. Then he told her that if she didn’t invite more than 15 people to the party, they would let her go ahead and have it, and then turned around and left. My wife went to the bedroom and fell on the bed and wept. Yes, she had the party, but the joy was gone.
On my birthday, September 4, 1982, my dear wife Geraldine had a heart attack when she was only 50 years old and died within 3 hours.
Sometime after Geraldine passed away, two sister workers called and asked if they could come for lunch on Saturday. I said, “Be my guest.” Well, they arrived and halfway through our lunch, they told me that they would like to see me get married again. “Well,” I said, “That is not so easily accomplished and where and how would I start?” So they said I needed to pray to God about it and He would direct a woman into my pathway.
Now, in all my professing days, I never prayed for a non-salvation item like a beautiful woman, a job, a house, a car, a dog or less taxes. What I always thought was, “He rains on the just and the unjust, and me being on the bottom rung of the ladder, who am I to ask for favors.” Well, lunch ended and they took off and left me with this heavy thing to pray about. Not wanting to rush into something like this, I took my time and thought it over a few weeks. Knowing that workers get all their directions from God, I thought maybe I should give their advice a try and it might turn out all right because all marriages are made in heaven–but then, so is thunder and lightning.
WORKERS & GOD’S ONLY TRUE WAY
I remember back from 1935 to 1950, the workers stood on the convention platform and preached that this was God’s Only True Right Way, and that there were no people on the earth like God’s people, and that all other churches were false and the worldly clergy could not tell people about God because they themselves didn’t know God.
When outsiders asked us, “What is the name of your religion,” I always told them, “It does not have a name…what we have is from the beginning…started by Jesus and not by man.” I do not like to use the word “truth” in referring to the 2×2 2×2 system name and you all know why. Yes, we said it a million times all our life.
I often wondered through the years: If this is God’s only true way, where is all the love, mercy and compassion? Jesus came to heal the broken hearted and to set at liberty them that are bruised; my yoke is easy and my burden is light, etc. Oh, how I wished that I could experience that, but I couldn’t.
There was an elder in our area who was a truther all his life and passed away when he was 83 years old who nearly always ended his testimony with, “And I firmly believe that we are the only people on earth that bring joy to the heart of God.” That’s heavy.
Several years ago, just before I got ex-communicated from the 2×2 system, I had a long talk with an 80-year-old 2×2 worker named Lloyd Brotherton. I asked him, “When you start meetings for new people, in your preaching, why don’t you tell them all the rules and regulations of the system right from the start–instead of waiting for them to get into it?” He said, “If we told them all the rules and regulations right from the start, they would stop coming.”
So you can see it’s dishonest and deceitful right from the start, and then slowly over the next year or so, they keep tightening the screws in their new convert’s brains and telling them what they have to do if they want to be baptized, and also what kind of clothes they must wear and that the women must remove all their jewelry and grow their hair long and shape it into a round bun on top of their head. Then they must get rid of their radio and television as they are devil’s inventions and not to go to any movies or professional sports–if they want to get to heaven.
In America, we all know that Abraham Lincoln was our 16th president from 1861 to 1865 and that people call him Honest Abe. He had been a lawyer in his younger days and did a lot of traveling with his horse and buggy. About 30 years ago, I was visiting William Lewis, the head worker of Illinois, and I was saying that there had been more written about Mr. Lincoln than any other man in our country. He said that he knew a lot about Mr. Lincoln, too. Then he said something that really surprised me. William said, “Don’t be surprised if you see Abraham Lincoln in Heaven someday,” and that was the end of our conversation about Honest Abe. So, HONEST ABE never met anyone from the 2×2 system, but he sure knew what HONESTY was Now, when I think about all the abuse over the years from the workers, what hurts the most is the workers being dishonest and lying to us about the 2×2 system they call “the truth.”
After my dear wife Geraldine died in 1982, and knowing how she felt about her life and her hope, I used to lay awake and worry. Did she go to heaven or not??? Yes, she had to be there because we are in God’s Only True, Right Way. But how can I know for sure? And I felt I would never know. I often wondered: “What if this isn’t really God’s only way? What if the real way is out there somewhere and there are so few that it’s too hard to find them?”
In 1985, before I ever heard of Wm Irvine, an old brother worker named Loyd Brotherton who preached in South America came to my house and we talked until 1:00 a.m. I asked him if he knew the history of our religion and when did it start. He told me, “We have no founder and what we believe in goes back to Jesus’ days. Trust me.” I asked him, “Are you sure this is the only true way to get to heaven, and how do you know?” He told me this way goes all the way back to Jesus’ day and his followers and that I had nothing to worry about. If this way really did go back to Jesus’ day in the history of it, why could I not get beyond George Walker? After Loyd left, I tried to trust him, but I still worried.
I often wondered how come the workers never came to this country on the Mayflower in 1620? They could have been in on the ground floor. After all, people came to this country for religious freedom and all through the civil war years from 1620 to 1903 almost 300 years. So from the time the Mayflower landed on the shores of America in 1620, it would be 283 years before any workers ever came over here. Where were they hiding all those years? Well, come to find out, there were no workers anywhere in the whole world during those years.
Then several years later, Frank Porter was preaching at special meeting that some people are saying that some man started our religion. He said that if some man would have started our religion, it would have fallen apart a long time ago—and to get that into your head! Yes, the workers can look you right in the eye and deny!
My mother-in-law told me that during the ’30s, there was a meeting place just down the road a few miles from them where the people in that meeting had problems among themselves. During testimony, they would dish out advice to one another and the animosity became so bad among them, that the head worker told them that they could not have any bread and wine for a whole year. After that period of time, he would see if their feelings for one another had improved.
Back in the ’30s and ’40s, we used to hear the story preached on the platform about the Catholic kittens. Some workers were spending some days in a truther home, and the children hurried to the basement and brought up some newborn kittens for the workers to see. One worker said to the kids, “Well, look at this, these are Catholic kittens.” The kids asked the worker, “Why are they Catholic kittens?” “Well, take a close look at them,” he said, “They don’t have their eyes open yet,” and the audience laughed. Yup, only the truthers had their eyes open, and they got the brainwashing message deeply embedded into their brain cells.
For years, Jim Brown (a worker) used to preach that the job of the Comforter was to make us feel uncomfortable in our lives. But it was always hard for me to sort that out. I always felt it was the workers who continued to fill the Guilt Bag that we friends carried; and it was the workers who caused us to feel uncomfortable when we didn’t follow their rules and regulations.
William Peterson told me a story about Charlie Mitchell. He said Charlie would rent a town hall and then he would preach against all the worldly clergy. He used to preach that when a man would be pulling on the devil’s tail, that would make the church bell ring so people would know it was time to come to church. Well, Charlie was ordered out of some communities.
Back in the ’40s during World War II, I had three brothers who were drafted by the military and served in the Pacific and in Europe. I remember Mother weeping when they left home. They went in as Conscientious Objectors (C.O.s). We heard that an average of 250 American soldiers were killed each day of the war, and that wasn’t counting the civilians who died. Now, in those days the workers did not allow us truthers in Wisconsin to have radios or even newspapers. So we would walk a half-mile to our worldly neighbors to ask what their radio was broadcasting about the war, so we could learn what was happening where our brothers were.
Back in 1950, I bought my first car and it had a radio in it. I took the antenna off and also took the radio out and got rid of it. Then, about 1965, my worker brother-in-law, Gilbert Richter, told me that Gus Jeanson would get in a car in the morning and first thing, he turned on the radio and would drive all day with that radio going full blast. Now, Gus Jeanson was the head worker of Texas during that time!! Oh, Gus, where were you when I needed you??? Now, here it is some 60+ years later, and just about every truther has a radio.
What else did the workers tell me to do besides get rid of the radio in my car? They told me not to wear tan shoes, as they look like what the worldly people wear. So I bought black ones like they wore. They told me to wear a necktie in meeting and it must look plain like the ones they wore. When I bought my first pair of brown shoes, they told me I was getting worldly.
FRIENDS & WORKERS DRINKING WINE & BEER
Jim Brown was up in his ’80s, and preaching on the platform in the machine shed at our convention at Seneca, Illinois. He said that one day he and three other workers went into a restaurant and he asked the hostess, “Do you serve wine here in this restaurant?” She said, “Yes, we do, just follow me to a table.” Jim told her, “I am sorry, but we will have to leave and go find another place to eat, as we cannot eat in a place where wine is present.” He then went on to say at this convention, “You had better do the same thing. If they serve wine there, you should not eat there.”
Many friends and workers don’t know that some friends and workers in various parts of the world drink beer and wine. There was a worker named Ralph Daniels from the states who used to preach in Germany for about five years and then he would come back here for two or three years and then go back again. So, one day I was taking him to the airport to fly back to Germany, and he told me that he was having a stomach problem here and that he would be so glad to get back to Germany, as the custom there was to have wine with your meal, and it would always make him feel better. He then told me that he couldn’t understand why some older workers in this country would not allow people to drink.
On vacation, we traveled through Switzerland on the train and all we saw were tunnels, and when we got into Italy, we saw vineyards, mile after mile. It was Special Meeting time and we were invited by the workers to come on Saturday evening to the home where Special Meeting was to be held on Sunday. Two workers from the States were there, Virginia Micheletti and Nick Enrietta and five other workers I didn’t know.
Now, there were about 14 of us at the dinner table and about 7 bottles of wine were on the table. As soon as the blessing was asked for the food and drinks, Nick started pouring glasses full of wine. When we were going for our third refill, Virginia said to my wife, “When we have visitors here from the states, I try to be careful not to drink too much in front of them.” Now, that was very considerate of her. When dinner was over, we visited awhile and then went to bed. I said to my wife, “Do they have a different God and a different Heaven over here than we have back in the states?”
They had a huge house and about 30 people came for the Special Meeting in their living room. When lunchtime came, they called us into the dining room to eat buffet style and on the table stood about 15 bottles of wine. Now, “THAT” was something to see. The people that owned the home and all the others that came there as well made us feel at ease. I was so glad that Nick could tell once again that I was so thirsty. There was an older worker there from Norway and I could tell that he was very thirsty too, and I started worrying about him because he was the main speaker for the afternoon. By meeting time his cheeks and nose were getting pink, but he did just fine.
FINDING OUT ABOUT THE 2×2 HISTORY
My older sister who lived in a small Wisconsin town saw an advertisement in the daily newspaper about a book called, The Secret Sect. She wondered if the people’s religion in The Secret Sect could be similar to what she had been in for years called “the truth.” So she ordered the book. It came and she started to read it. There were pictures in the book of workers she had known for years and she realized that the book was all about “the truth” and its history. In the book was a picture of the founder, William Irvine.
In 1987, my sister handed me The Secret Sect book and told me to read it. I looked at the pictures and saw men I knew and had visited with. I saw a photo of Nicol Jardine, who had been sent out by William Irvine, and who was the head worker in Wisconsin from about 1907 until he died in 1954. I saw a picture of George Walker with William Irvine. I read a few pages and I began to cry.
The book told about a man named William Irvine who professed through a worldly preacher around 1893. He decided to quit working in the coal mines in Scotland and become a preacher, and he preached for the Faith Mission for a while. Then he started his own religion and hundreds and thousands of people became captive to his 2×2 system–including me.
I asked my sister, “How long have you had this book??” She said, “For about a year.” I asked her, “Why did you wait a year to show me this book?” She said, “I was afraid for you.” Well, I cried some more. I knew I had a lot to sort out. Oh, the pain. The day I learned that this truth system that I had believed in all my life had its beginning in 1897 by William Irvine, I was shocked and dizzy and my mind could hardly take it in. But at last, I was done looking through a glass darkly, and I could finally put the pieces of the puzzle together.
“Oh Loyd, Loyd. What have you done to me?? You got a call from God to go and preach the truth and you were preaching for 40 years when you came to my home when I was feeling so down. I gave you a good dinner. I gave you a bed and a roof over your head, and you did not tell me the truth about the so-called ‘truth’!!! How could you??!”
When I finished reading the book, I said to myself, “I can no longer support this system and I can never give money to the workers again.” After that my life started taking off in a different direction. I told the head worker to move the meeting out of my home, as my job was too demanding. But he said he wanted the meeting to stay in my home and that he would send over four ex-workers to help out. I was too scared to tell four ex-workers what I had found out, so I put up with them and a meeting in my home for three more years.
However, when I retired in 1992, I told the workers that I would not be home every weekend, and so they moved the meeting. When I was in town, I went to meeting at my brother Ralph’s house (until 1998.) I thought, “Now, I can start to speak about grace and works and whatever to try to change things and try to wake people up.” I tried to tell Ralph and Evelyn about the 2×2 system they were in and they told me, “Don’t say another word, we don’t want to hear it.”
For years, my sister and I had no one else to talk to. There was no 2×2 church list-serve and no internet or message boards or forums yet. For three years, we talked to each other about The Secret Sect book hundreds of times and discussed what should we do and what were our options. No one else wanted to hear about it. We knew that if we left the meetings that we would lose all our friends and relatives in the system, so we continued going to meetings. So I quietly stayed in as long as I could because that would make it easier to help my own 3 grown children and their families get out, as well as some relatives and friends. By the time my brother closed the door to meetings to me (1998), I had helped about 16 people get out. For some it was quick and easy; and for some others, it took about 3 years before they got their eyes open and left.
About 1994, Loyd Brotherton was at the Seneca, Illinois convention, and he came up to me in the machine shed just before meeting and said to me, “Tom, Tom, what is this I hear about you…that you are losing out? Remember what I told you that night at your house??? Well, what I told you is true…believe me!” Then he went up by the platform and sat down. Some place in the Bible, there is a verse “God hates a lying tongue.” When God asked Eve, “What happened?” in my NIV Bible, she said, “The serpent deceived me,” and God cursed the serpent. Oh, Loyd, have you deceived me??? Have you deceived others??? Think about it!!!
When my Mom got past 50, her hair started to turn gray. So she would gather black walnuts from the trees and used the walnut husks to make a nice brown dye which she used on her hair for the rest of her life and she lived to be 91. One day, a professing lady asked my Mother if she didn’t feel guilty using the dye she made to color her hair brown. “Not at all,” Mom said, because she had used black dye for years to make her white and tan stockings black to keep the workers happy, so why should this be any different?
When my Mom was 85 years old, living alone and deep in the 2×2 system since she was 22, she was trying her best to be a hearty saint and go to every meeting she could get to, because if she missed one, the workers would be knocking on her door. At that time, my wife had passed away and my three kids had all left home, so I would often drive 250 miles north of Chicago to visit Mother for the weekend.
On one of my visits, my Mom told me that Wednesday night Bible studies were getting too gruesome for her to handle, and that she had told the elder that she would not be coming to Wednesday night meetings anymore. Very soon two sister workers knocked on her door. After lunch, Ruth, the older one in charge, asked Mom what was her problem about the Wednesday night meetings. So Mom told her the Bible study was all about wars in the Middle East that happened thousands of years ago.
Ruth said she thought the study would be a good learning experience for all to partake in, so what was Mom’s problem? Mom told them, “I had three sons in the war and when they all came home again, I could sleep better. Now here I am, 85 years old, going to Bible study on Wednesday nights, and I come home and go to bed and dream about our study. About David and his army killing so many of Saul’s people and I wake up with nightmares for the next 3-4 nights. And then I go to Bible study again the next Wednesday and everybody is talking about Saul’s army killing so many of David’s people. And they end with wanting to be more like David. And again, I go to bed and dream about wars, fighting and killing.”
Then Mom said that there is nothing in the Bible where Jesus said you need to go to Wednesday night Bible study, and that if you don’t go, it has nothing to do with your salvation. Mom said Ruth got angry and the two workers left in a huff. Mom wondered what was going to happen next. After the next Sunday morning meeting was over, Ruth announced that they were going to stop studying about wars in the Wednesday night meeting, and that they would study some nice chapters in the New Testament. Mom said to me, “If you challenge a worker’s power and authority, the temperature can get a little cool.” And it did.
Well, Mom lived to be 92 and two years before she passed away, we told her about William Irvine, the founder and maker of the 2×2 meeting system, and that we all got brainwashed into believing it was the only church to belong to if we ever expected to get to heaven when we died. Mom said, “I just don’t know what to make of it.”
Back in 1944, my sister was working in a factory in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and she had to be on her feet 8 hours a day. After several months, she started getting blisters on the bottom of her feet, so when she would get home at night, she would take a needle and pierce the blisters to let the water out. Now, this went on for several months until she finally had to go see a doctor.
The doctor asked her, “How long have you been wearing black stockings? She told him, “For 22 years.” He asked, “Well, why are you wearing them?” She was too ashamed to tell him that it had a strong connection with her salvation in “the truth.” He told her, “Whatever your deep-seated reasons are, you are going to have to stop wearing black stockings with the black dye in them and get you some light color cotton stockings.”
So she did and in a few weeks her feet were almost completely healed. She said that when she had started working at the factory, the people would stare at her black stockings every morning, and she would put on her coveralls as quickly as she could so people would not stare at her. After she started wearing light cotton stockings and went to meeting, then the friends stared at her. So after meeting, she quickly told them the reason why she had to wear the light cotton stockings. About five years later, the BIG CHANGE came and all the friends could wear the light cotton stockings and nobody stared.
In 1995, Richard Gasser (a worker) was talking to my sister on the telephone and told her that she could not take part in meeting anymore because of something that she had said and done. So she asked him how long this sentence was going to run, and he said he had no idea how long it would be. And while he was talking on the phone to her, she had a heart attack. Well, she got to the hospital and was there over a week and on oxygen. All the time she was in the hospital, Richard was at the elder’s house just three miles away and not once did he come to the hospital to visit her.
As she started getting better, the doctor asked her, “What were you doing when you got this heart attack?” She told him that she was on the phone talking to her minister and about what the minister was telling her. “Well,” the doctor said to her, “I would advise you to stay away from that church and those ministers as they are going to kill you. You need to find another church.” So she never went back. She told me to write her story, and that’s just what I am doing here.
My older sister had a stroke, her right hand was paralyzed, and she began to live in a care center. Not being left-handed made it very difficult for her to braid her waist-long hair and put it into a round bun on the top of her head. So she had the beautician cut her hair and then she made a nice round bun from the cut hair. She put the round bun in a box standing on the table beside her bed. When the friends and workers came to see her, they would say, “Oh, you had your hair cut off?” My sister told them not to worry. Then she opened the box, took out the bun and handed it to them. Most folks acted very uncomfortable and quickly handed it back to her.
The Pharisees had a small leather box, called a phylactery that they strapped to their foreheads. Inside that phylactery were copies of their own rules and laws that they needed to obey. The reason the phylactery was strapped to their forehead was so those rules would be as close to their brain as they could get them. Now, do you think the workers might have moved that leather box onto the top of the women’s heads and shaped it into the form of a bun and it’s full of rules and located as close to the women’s brains as they can get it??
And then one day in 1998, I found myself outside of the 2×2 system called “the truth.” I didn’t quit, and I didn’t just walk away. I was fired and I wasn’t even warned that I was getting the pink slip. Yes, I was just kicked out, or as some call it, I was ex-communicated.
I had been going to meeting at the home of my brother Ralph and his wife Evelyn, and they ex-communicated me, and they wouldn’t even tell me why. However, they did tell my younger sister who went to meeting about 75 miles away, and she told me that the reason was because I had “a bad attitude toward the truth.” Seems while I was gone on a 4 month vacation, a new meeting list came out and my name wasn’t on the list. So I was officially excommunicated–in a roundabout way.
I was invited by my Irish niece to attend Ralph and Evelyn’s 40th wedding anniversary celebration. None of the 50 “friends” there visited with me. So I sat at a table with five “worldly people.” Yes, even family will turn against family when you leave the 2×2 system, and it hurts. Occasionally, they call me on the phone to let me know someone died. My brother and wife have told me that I can stop by to visit them, but that I am never to discuss or bring up anything about the religion that they are in. So when I stop by, we talk about the weather, how green the grass is, and how the trees are growing and then I go home. We could just as well take turns reciting the alphabet.
After I left meetings George Poole from Canada stopped here in the Chicago area to visit people he knew for a few days before going to the convention. Well, he called and asked me to meet him Sunday evening in someone else’s home, and he told me the people of the home would be gone so it would just be the two of us.
The first thing he did was to show me the “Summer of 1997” Newsletter, and he asked me if I knew any of the people that were publishing that. I told him that I did.
“Well,” he asked, “are they trying to start a new religion?”
“No,” I said, “They are trying to clean up the one they have been in all their life.”
“Well, what’s wrong with it?” he asked me.
So, the first thing I told him was, “We have been lied to all our lives, we believed about it going back to Jesus’ day but it really doesn’t, and we have found out we have a founder whose name is William Irvine and he started this system back in 1897. Now, George, tell me, did you know this?’ I asked.
So, he told me that William Irvine wasn’t the only man that started this. He said George Walker spoke in a Worker’s Meeting in Canada about 1951 and said that the truth had been dormant for many years and that at the turn of the century, God spoke from heaven to three men and told them how to put the truth together again and they did and it’s been going on ever since. What I don’t understand is why George and other older workers never told that from the convention platform to the body of believers. Probably because that would have just led to more questions…
George asked me what I was in disagreement with in the truther system. So I told him about all the baggage we have put up with for years. I told him about the Black Stockings that my mother and all the professing women in America had put up with until around 1950 and then it was finally all right to change to Tan Stockings. Then he said that the Black Stockings were never an issue in “the truth.” Why, women could have put on Tan Stockings anytime they wanted to, but they didn’t do it because they loved to wear the Black Stockings. Now, isn’t that simply amazing???? Sometimes, I wonder just how much workers really know.
George asked me if I still believed in convention and what it’s for. I told him yes I do, and I told him what it’s all about. Fifty percent of convention is nothing more than family reunion, because in this church all your relatives are professing and they are there. Thirty percent of the convention is reunion with your professing friends that you have come to know over the years. And I told him that if he thinks that all these people standing out there on the grounds visiting between the meetings are talking about what they heard preached on the platform, he has another guess coming, because they are talking about their jobs, vacations, their kids, etc. The last 20 percent of convention is hurry to the dining tent doors and waiting to get in there to eat, and then going into the machine shed to listen and take notes, or take a short nap and worrying about what kind of testimony you can give to please the workers.
I asked George what did he think would happen if he stood on the platform on Thursday afternoon and told the crowd that back in 1910s, ’20s, ’30s and ’40s, that all the women had to wear Black Stockings. And what if he told them that if it was good in those days and the women loved to wear them, well, it would be good today to go back to those times. So that evening after supper, they were all to go into town to the stores and buy Black Stockings. And he told them that tomorrow morning at 10 o’clock when the women come into the machine shed, he wanted to see Black Stockings on all the women. I asked him, “What do you think they would tell you if you told them that?” I answered for him, “Well, George, they would probably tell you to get lost and we’re going home.”
I am now 85 years old, and I’m a homeless 1 x 1, a wanderer. I sold my home in Illinois, and I move around the country with my dog named Merlin. Merlin is a five-year old toy blue merle purebred Australian Shepherd weighing just 15 pounds. Merlin is a registered service dog and goes with me most places that I go to. I often stay with my children, in places like Alaska, California and Arizona.
By Tom Schroeder
Last revised May 26, 2013
LETTER TO MY SISTER-IN-LAW. My sister-in-law Evelyn who was living 3 miles from me wrote me a short letter to tell me the man from the convention farm had died on Thanksgiving Day. So I answered her letter. Here it is…
December 5th, 1998
Dear Ralph and Evelyn,
So you have been trying to get in touch with me. Well, I have been very busy and in and out so much. I had a very busy Thanksgiving weekend. First, I had 3 invitations for Thanksgiving dinner, and of course, they were all from what we used to call, “Worldly People.” So I went with a couple and their 3 kids to Orland Park. Her father is Vice-President for the Amoco Oil Company in Chicago. About 15 of us around the table and so much food! They all showed so much kindness to me and so much love for one another and to God. After dinner, we played games and I really enjoyed the long day, arriving back home at 10:30 p.m.
On Friday, I went to the planetarium to see the star show and the star shining to lead the wise men to Bethlehem. It says they came into the house and they fell down and worshiped ‘HIM” and to think that it wasn’t even in a meeting. Come to think about it, of all the meetings I sat in all my life, I don’t recall ever hearing anyone speak about wanting to worship God. Most speak about their faults and failures and shortcomings and want to do better and better each day. Also, the story in Mark tells about a wild and crazy man who lived in the cemetery and when he saw Jesus, he ran to “HIM” and worshiped “HIM” right there on the mountainside. I think these were wise men because they knew that this Jesus was God come down in the flesh. Phillip was slow to believe, because he asked Jesus to let him see God and Jesus said to him, “Phillip, have I been with you so long and you have not seen God.” They have more exhibits to see at the planetarium since I was there last. Space ships, etc….one like John Glenn went up in 1962. It was all so interesting that I didn’t get home until 7:00 p.m.
Someone called me to tell me that Henry had died and the funeral would be Saturday, but I could not go, but thanks for mentioning it in your letter. I’m sure that the workers would have preached at his funeral about Henry having convention on his farm for about sixty years now.
Now, what I wonder is what old Henry thinks when he gets to the other side and he meets up with William Irvine, our founder, the one that got this system and conventions started in 1897. I’m sure they would have a lot in common to talk about and no doubt, William would ask Henry, “How have the conventions been going on your farm the last few years of your life….I mean, are they still honestly exciting and also, tell me Henry, what do the workers talk about on the platform these years?”
Henry says, “Well, they start convention out with a stern warning telling about certain books and newsletters that have been written that the members are NOT to read and that they should burn them, but they never mention the name of William Irvine from the platform–that would be too devastating to the membership because in today’s generation, very few have heard of you and that would create a LOT of questions for the workers and the workers DO NOT like questions. So, they tell the members they have a bad spirit, and some are told not to take part in meeting, and some have their names taken off the ‘where to go to meetings’ list…it’s really called “excommunication.”
“Oh, Henry, why did you say that word, it brings painful memories as that’s what George Walker did to me in 1914 and that hurt. Now, tell me, Henry, what else do they talk about on that platform in the machine shed. Ahhhhh, they still build machine sheds, I hope. You know I started that trend, too.”
“Now, now, William, I hope you don’t try and take credit for starting this whole religion, I mean, system, that we were in all our life. They tell us on the platform with their Bibles in their hand, that this way or system goes all the way back to the beginning…to Jesus day…and one worker, Gilbert Ricter, told on the platform a couple of years ago, ‘Many men have started many different religions but this one we are in, we don’t know who started it…but keep yourselves sanctified so that if anyone should question you about it, you can give them the right answers.’ “
“Oh, my, my, why Henry? How come the workers are lying and deceiving the members like this? Why do they want to bypass me and even deny that I ever started this thing and tell the people it was started by Jesus. You know, that just makes me sick. Oh, tell me, Henry, you know, if the workers had only preached the truth, they wouldn’t be in this mess they have got themselves into. I suppose that they have to spend a lot of time preaching damage control?”
“Well, you see William, for years the workers told us that this was God’s ‘only true and right way’ and that all other religions were false and that the people were going to hell because their churches had been started by some man or woman. Then you find out that this worker’s system was started by a man, too. Yes, YOU, William Irvine, and what does your brain tell you? Well, you are going to hell, too, just like those people in the false churches started by some man. You know, William, that a lot of the friends are getting out because they can’t take the stress of living a double life, and to follow all the rules and all the do’s and don’ts, even the workers are quitting.”
“Well, Henry, what can I say, what goes around, comes around and sometimes people will learn too late.”
“Well, William, I must say, you are a kinda’ likable fellow in spite of starting something in 1897 that has brought so much havoc into people’s lives.”
“OK, OK, always blame the next fellow so come under my wing, Henry, and I will comfort you. Oh my, my, Henry, how come your shoulders are so cold? I don’t understand why so many of the friends and workers that come here have cold shoulders?”
“Oh, William, if you don’t know by now, I will tell you. You see, in this sect, or what we call ‘the way,’ we have been brainwashed to give the cold shoulder to our relatives, friends and others that have been in this sect and have left or lost out, so if we treat them like this, it could make them come crawling back into it, and some do but they never reach the same status as they had before they left.”
“Oh, my, my, Henry, have you never read that if you want to go to the good place, you must love your neighbor as thyself?”
“Oh yes, I have, William, but they don’t live next door to me.”
“Oh, Henry, here is a blanket for those cold shoulders as I don’t want you to cool this place down.”
“Well, William, what can I say, you know you started this whole mess, and have you never read that the last will be first, so move over and let me sit on the hot seat!!!!”
I sure enjoy my computer as I can communicate with people all over the world…places like Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Canada, and the U.S. These people are friends and workers that got out of the cult system, some are just getting out and some are still in but thinking about getting out. Oh, yes, and some have been excommunicated by the powers of the workers.
Oh, I wonder if you heard that a Tenniswood left the work in Michigan…I heard, sick. Also, Harry Wilson, who used to be in this state, and I believe he is now in Virginia, left the work and got married to a divorced lady and has meeting in his home. Well, I have so much more I could tell you but it is time for other things to do.
All for now,
Revised: July 10, 2016
Tom is the author of Black Stockings (BS)