Shepherding/Discipleship Movement Survivor's Blog

The present-day impact of the Shepherding/Discipleship movement from the perspective of a former member of Morning Star International (now Every Nation Churches and Ministries).

Wednesday, April 26, 2006


I just got an email from a friend and reader joking that I must be pretty old to remember the 19th century communalist groups. Sorry, meant more modern day groups and the days when cults made headlines in the 70s and 80s. Sometimes I feel that much older, especially when climbing stairs, but I'm really only middle aged, and relatively early middle aged at that.

But, I already knew more than I should about the other groups too, since I'm also a product of the "Burnt Over District" of Upstate New York. This is what I wrote back:

Hehehehe, I thought I was writing it in such a way that I meant the more modern day groups, not the 19th century ones.

Though most of my time growing up I lived around a mile from the original US Shaker settlement, where Mother Ann Lee is buried. I used to go fishing in Ann Lee Pond. Also, my family is originally from the infamous Burnt Over District that spawned some of those other groups, including the Oneida Settlement - my birthplace is where they made Oneida silverware and have a street named after John Humphrey Noyes (their founder), and the Mormons also used to heavily promote the annual Palmyra pageant in our area too - Hill Comorah isn't that far away either. One could even say that Doris Wagner (C. Peter's wife), who is the one heavily into the spiritual warfare thing, is a modern-day product of the Burnt Over District since she's also originally from Central New York [. . .]. Central and Western NY was another hotbed of early Latter Rain activity - the revival based at Elim Institute occurred at around the same time as the original one in Canada. My brother even knows of a laughing revival church in the same area where they literally pipe in laughing gas every week - reason he knows this is he knows the guy who makes the weekly deliveries. The majority of people in that area are either vehemently anti-"born again" (like most of my family) or deeply into the off the wall stuff that causes others to get so turned off to "born agains." All this to say I already knew more than I should about many of these groups, hehehehe.

That last part is something that has always saddened me about the area where I grew up, and obviously more so now that I'm a "born again" myself, though I think my family is starting to see through me that "born again" isn't synonymous with "blithering idiot." There's been so much weirdness up there that so many people seem to already be culturally predisposed to be turned off to the real Gospel, preferring the safety of "dead" religion or no religion at all. My pastor while I was in grad school in Virginia (this was before my MSI/Every Nation days) was a second generation Italian from New York City, and for a while he and his Ontario-born wife pastored a church in Rensselaer, NY, which is right across the Hudson River from Albany. I was born in Utica, NY, but spent most of my childhood and early adulthood in Colonie, an Albany suburb. Anyhow, no matter how hard they tried, they couldn't make a go of their ministry there due to what they perceived as a heavy spiritual darkness and resistance to the gospel. Maybe things have changed; but I know when I left the area ten years ago, even though this was still before I became a Christian, I sensed the same heaviness as well - what a contrast to Nashville, where I finally surrendered to Jesus. Anyhow, if God ever leads me back to Upstate New York to be a light on a hill, no matter how dimly lit I think it might seem, I would go, despite the bitter cold and snowy winters that I've been happy not to deal with over the last decade since I moved south of the Mason-Dixon line.

Ok, I need to stop. I've got work to do and a paper to write.


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