Author of The Church With No Name – Known as the Cooneyites, Two by Twos
I was a third-generation member of this group. I was brought up in it, ‘professed’ and was baptised at the age of fifteen. My grandparents came into contact with ‘the workers’ and professed in 1928 and most of my family followed. Of those who have left the group only two of us have become ‘Christians’, the rest have turned their backs on any church. Many are too fearful to even enter a church because of the negative programming they have received about them.
Like many others I professed for several reasons. One was out of fear that I would go to hell if I didn’t, the other was that by the age of fifteen I had reached ‘the age of understanding’ and it was expected of me. I was a teenager and expected to make my own choices as I could no longer ‘ride’ on the salvation of my mother. After all, others were doing it and I didn’t want to be left out. I, like others of my age, professed to join ‘the meetings’ and to belong, to separate myself from the world as I believed it to be, and believed that I was now ‘saved’.
There was an unwritten belief that I would automatically believe that all churches, except ‘the meetings’ were of the devil, and that this was the only way to God; in fact that this was ‘the Way of God’. We were taught that going to a church (bearing in mind that we did not call our group a church) was only a social event and that ministers in churches never preached about Jesus and were only after people’s money. Those of us who have left and become involved in a Christian church have found that this is not true. Those in ‘the meetings’ are very money orientated. However, none of these things was an issue to me at the time because I knew of nothing else.
What I did not do was ‘profess’ because of my faith in Jesus who had died for me, and who had shed his blood on the Cross for my sins. I had never heard about it. I had never heard about ‘the blood’. I had never heard how Christ had died in my place. All I heard was how unworthy I was and how I had to die daily to self and worldly pleasure, as defined by the ‘workers’. Salvation rested on whether I ‘professed’ and not on my belief in Jesus.
Convention was a time to look forward to. Those who had struggled with believing during the year would come back from four days at Convention feeling like their faith had been renewed and were able to keep going another year. I remember hearing how we had to be misfits in the world and came away feeling quite pleased that I did not fit in at school and didn’t have friends. Feeling isolated and not able to fit in was part of the price we had to pay and like Jesus, we would be rejected by the world.
I loved doing athletics. At school, I broke school records and won interschool sports in running and high jump but I was not allowed to do these outside of school. A neighbourhood friend went to a running club and won cups, but I wasn’t allowed because it was considered ‘worldly’ and we weren’t to indulge in the pleasures of this world. We were told we were in a better race (1 Corinthians 9:24-28) and that “bodily exercise profiteth little” (1 Timothy 4:8) being quoted to back it up.
Like a lot of things, I found out later that others were participating in sports outside of school but this was kept a secret. I vowed that when I grew up and had children that I would take them to a running club and they would win the cups and ribbons that I was not allowed to win. They did this and it fulfilled what I had missed out in my childhood. For some reason, we were allowed to go to Brownies and Girl Guides even though they were held in a church. I loved this. We were not allowed to go to the movies. Although some parents would allow their children to go, these parents were considered to not be ‘professing’ properly.
I remember going to the movies once and praying that Jesus would not return while I was there because I believed that I would miss out and go to hell if He came while I was there because I had been taught it was in an evil place. A visit to the hairdresser also brought about the same fear.
Those who had ‘professed’ during the year were baptised at convention. We had to put on some old ladies’ clothes and were required to wear old-fashioned woollen togs that had been kept by ‘the workers’ for the occasion. We were taken to a spot where the creek had been banked up to make it deep enough for us to be baptised in. It was a solemn occasion with people standing around singing hymns and not an occasion that you could imagine the angels in heaven were rejoicing over.
In the meeting, afterward those who were baptised were expected to give their testimony. Most of us were fearful of standing up in front of all those people and having to speak. Every year, at convention it was expected that everyone would give their testimony at least once. Many people spoke about how they had found the ‘true servants of God’. I never remember anyone saying how they were seeking for Jesus and found Him. It was always how they found ‘His servants’.
When I was thirteen, a lady ‘worker’ came up to me at convention and told me to put my hair up. My hair was shoulder length and quite curly. When it was out it looked soft and feminine and I liked wearing it that way, but at thirteen I was expected to conform. Young girls looked like mature women with their hair up in old-fashioned styles. Hair loose around our neck was not acceptable and had to be tied up off the neck. If I knew my Bible then like I do now, I would have been able to challenge her in light of what the Scriptures say. I could have said that the Bible says that a woman’s hair is to be her covering which does not mean wearing it up. The length of my hair was not important to her but whether it was worn up or not. Any length of hair, no matter how short it was, could be rolled up and many of the women would do just that for ‘the meetings’.
At seventeen I became pregnant and was told that I would have to ‘profess’ again. As there was only one more meeting for the year I thought I would wait until the new year before I did. I began to feel frightened because it meant that as I had to ‘profess’ again I was no longer ‘professing’ and was not saved until I had ‘professed’ again. I thought that if I got killed over the holidays, I would go to hell, so when ‘the workers’ asked if anyone wanted to ‘profess’ the following week I quickly jumped to my feet. I was baptised for the second time at convention a few weeks later. No one knew why I ‘professed’ and got baptised again. I guessed that because I had not been to the meetings for several months they must had presumed that I had left for a while. Even I was not really sure why I had to ‘profess’ again except that ‘Uncle’ Walter had said it was a good idea so that other girls did not think they could ‘do it’ and get away with ‘it’.
I met my husband through work. I took him to ‘the meetings’ and he ‘professed’. The workers told us to get married as quietly as possible. The act of marriage was almost a shameful thing and the ‘workers’ did not like a big show when it came to weddings. They considered weddings to be worldly, did not approve of white weddings and would only come to the wedding breakfast if it was held in a home. Nothing like the picture the Bible gives as an example of ‘the bride of Christ’.
My life was changed in 1979 when my husband asked me to visit a Christian couple with him. I refused for a while as I believed they were following the devil and did not want anything to do with them. Finally one day I agreed to go. For some reason, I told the wife my marriage was in a mess. She talked about Jesus and said, “Jesus can help.” I could not understand how she talked about Jesus and I talked about God so I asked her and she said, “even the devil believes in God and trembles”. She talked about how believing in Jesus was a personal experience. I was confused.
We had been told that people who went to church did not talk about Jesus and yet she knew Him in a way that I did not. I had never heard anyone talk about Jesus the way she did. After all, I thought I was in the true church so why was she talking about Jesus? As soon as I walked into her home I felt something different. A few weeks later I wrote to her telling her how I loved the Spirit that was in her home. I did not really know what I meant but that was the only way I could describe it.
A few weeks later in April 1979, I awoke in the middle of the night and saw a vision of Jesus on the Cross. He pointed down from the Cross at me and said, “I died for you”. I now realised what that lady had meant when she had said knowing Jesus was a personal experience. Next day as I read my Bible everything seemed so different. I began to see what the Bible was really saying and it was not what I had been taught in ‘the meetings’.
I realised that the words we used in ‘the meetings’ were not even in the Bible. As stated at the beginning of this book, I began to see that words like church, Christians and so on, were in the Bible and that words like ‘meetings’ and ‘professing’ were not. I realised that we did not even speak the language of the Bible.
I began going to the Baptist Church as well as ‘the meetings’. I would go to ‘the meeting’ in the morning and as ‘the missions’ were held in the afternoon I could go to a church at night. I noticed that people prayed for one another at church. I asked the ‘workers’ to pray for us but they refused replying “we are not Pentecostals”. I had not been to a Pentecostal Church but this was their excuse because they did not practice this.
As I realised that what I had been taught was ‘wrong’ I found it difficult to continue speaking in ‘meetings’ in the same manner as I had been taught. As I went to a Christian church I began to see that the things we had been told about churches were not true. I began to realise that God did not dwell in ‘houses made by hands’ any more than he did ‘temples made by hands’ but as I learned at church, He dwells within our hearts.
I noticed that ‘the workers’ focused on changing the outward appearance and not the heart. At church, I heard what true repentance and faith in Jesus was. It was not turning from ‘the world’ as defined by ‘the workers’ and following them as they taught, but rather it was turning from sin. It was not until I went to a Church that I heard what sin really was. I found it hard for a while to understand how these beautiful Christian people in churches could wear make-up and still profess to be Christians, but then I had been trained to look on the outward appearance. I began to see that these people were beautiful on the inside and out. I saw that their outward appearance reflected the beauty and freedom that they had found in Christ.
As time went on I learned that sin was adultery and the other sins listed in the Bible and was not wearing make-up, watching television, or going to a ‘church’. I realised that we only had an (outward) form of Godliness in ‘the meetings’ but denied the power thereof (2 Timothy 3:5); and that ‘the workers’ had taken out only what they had wanted or found convenient to take from the Bible. I found that Christian people were truly free in Christ, although it took a few years before I could really cast off the ‘traditions’ that I had grown up with. For a while, I still feared leaving ‘the meetings’ in case I went to hell and like others who have left, feared being deceived again.
After a few months, I visited and talked with the elder of our Sunday morning meeting. Within a day or two, a ‘worker’ rung me up. As I had just read a book that had a short passage about ‘the Cooneyites’, which by now I had realised was ‘the meetings,’ saying that the group had been started by a man named William Irvine, I asked ‘the worker’ about it. Her reply was that she did not deny this but that God had put it in that man’s heart. This book said that Joseph Smith had also said the same thing when he started the Mormon Church. My thought was, why had this ‘worker’, as all ‘the workers’ had done, preached that we were the true church ‘from the beginning’ and that unlike all other churches, we had never been started by any man?
The very foundation of what I had believed was shaken. I was beginning to realise that something was wrong. Also, the Baptist pastor had shown from the Bible where Jesus and the apostles had healed the lame and the sick and how we were to pray for the sick (James 5:14,15). When I spoke to ‘the worker’ about this issue she said that Jesus could heal today if He wanted to but He didn’t want to. I ask by what authority did she have to say that on God’s behalf? She ended the conversation by saying that she could not speak to me anymore because I had been ‘blinded’ by going into a Baptist Church.
I never went back to ‘the meetings’ after this and I never heard from ‘the workers’ again. I guess I would not have been allowed to go anymore anyway. Their loyalty ended when I asked questions, even though I was a third-generation member and our family had been in it for over fifty years.
At that time I did not know of anyone who had left ‘the meetings’ and become a Christian so it was a lonely time trying to wrestle with the Scriptures and undo all I had learned. It was great to be able to attend prayer meetings like they had done in the Bible and really know Jesus for myself. I could not get enough of the Bible for those first few years.
I did not need four days at convention to keep me believing, I got more from one church service than I had from a whole convention. I came to know that Jesus was the same yesterday, today and forever and that He would never leave or forsake me. I change and grow, but He is always the same. I can depend on Him and I am not dependent on what I can do in order to receive salvation but on what Christ has done at the Cross.
I do not want an easy way to heaven as this group claims those who attend other churches do, nor do I want the world and God too, but endeavour to live a life pleasing to Him, knowing His grace and forgiveness when I fail. I live by the Bible, not some man-made rules. I live by faith in Jesus and not by works ‘lest any man should boast’.
It is my prayer that if you do not know Jesus, then that you might find Him and come to know Him as your personal Saviour too. We used to sing a hymn: “I love to think the way of God, it’s just the path that Jesus trod…” I used to sing this with all my heart, I believed that Jesus walked ‘this way’, that He started ‘this way’ 2,000 years ago on ‘the shores of Galilee’. I now know that Jesus did not tread ‘this’ way, but that ‘He’ is the way. I take warning from the words, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made you free and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1); “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30). I am “…ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh a reason of the hope that is in (me)…” (1 Peter 3:15).
REASONS FOR WRITING MY BOOK
What I have written in this book has largely been the result of my own experience and the teachings I received growing up in the group. In other instances, I have used historical records to support my statements. I was born into the group, ‘professing’(1) at the age of fifteen and faithfully attending ‘the meetings’(2) until I reached the age of thirty. My grandparents joined the group in the late 1920s and most of my immediate family still remain in it.
Although some may experience being cut off from family after leaving the group, this has not been my experience nor has it been for many others who have left. However, many in the group avoid having contact with people who leave being told that “they had a wrong spirit”, “got bitter”, or “were never properly ‘professing’ in the first place.” This is said of nearly everyone who leaves the group. Those who have gone to other churches and have tried to witness their newfound faith are said to have “gone religious”, accused of wanting “an easy way to heaven”, or “wanting God and the world too”. They are accused of not being willing to pay the price.
The price is self denial, which is obeying without question the rules made by ‘the workers’. In their eyes, it is better to go out into ‘the world’ than to another church. It was over ten years after I left the group before I found out that there were others who had left and who had also become Christians. This was because of the fear and rumours that were told about those who had left which cut us off from having any contact with them.
My reasons for writing this book are threefold:
* The first is to inform the reader of the teachings of this group and to compare them with Scripture. Any group should be able to stand the test against Scripture. If it is ‘truth’ then it should be able to stand being questioned.
* The second is so that the reader may better be able to understand and minister to those in this group and help them understand what is behind the evasive answers they give.
* The third is to show those in this group ‘the truth’ about the group in which they have placed their faith.
Click Here to read Lyn Cooper’s book, The Church With No Name