In parts 1 and 2 I shared about my history with growing up in the WWCG and touched on where my family and I ended up after the doctrinal changes the church made in December 1994 (and following church split and fracturing as a result). In this segment I’m going to spend a little time on looking back and reflecting on that time. It’s hard to imagine that was 25+ years ago!
There is tons and tons of content about the old WWCG online. There are whole websites dedicated to the preservation of Herbert Armstrong’s teachings, materials and audio/video. If you were apart of this movement and haven’t searched some of this stuff out on the web yet then I encourage you to do so as the content is vast and organized well (https://wwcg-archives.com for example). Looking at it all the content now helps me understand why I grew up thinking that way I did as a child. It’s very enlightening.
I recently listened to a full sermon of Armstrong’s that he gave in Minneapolis in 1981 entitled “To Those Whom God Has Called“. It’s a message he delivered near the end of his life and it covers a broad range of topics and gives a really great overview/introduction/refresher to the churches theology and his preaching style. My dad and mom were actually in attendance for this sermon. I was too – I was only one year old! It was held at the old Minneapolis Auditorium where the now Minneapolis Convention Center now stands. I’ve listen to various audio clips from Armstrong over the past few years but I payed much closer attention to this one analyzing it from a few different perspectives.
This guy might be what us young folk call “old-school” in his approach and style but holy cow was he fired up! A very educated, polished, boisterous and authoritative presentation. I can easily see why so many people followed this guy. Actually, hearing his voice is still very comforting. I grew up with that voice as the church would often play his sermons during meeting times and my parents watched old video presentations from his telecasts. I can still distinguish that voice instantaneously.
There is so much I deeply disagree with Armstrong about. But there is also a lot of things that aren’t that far off from what I believe today. Rather than take his sermon apart and deconstruct it I’ll just say one thing: I can agree with those who feel that great damage was done by Armstrong and his movement. You’re right. But I also can see some good. My families conversion might be a testimony to the good that came out of it.
Armstrong ‘s message must have resonated with people who wanted to go deeper in regard to spiritual holiness. He certainly offered up plenty of audio and literary material to appeal to those of the intellect, and offered a authoritative this is the only true message to God that convicted the hearts of the simple minded. Who knows, perhaps I would have been drawn in to the church as well if I was an adult hearing his radio programs in the 1950’s and 60’s.
A GOOD EXPERIENCE
Looking back at it all I truly had a great experience in the church. I’ve read some of the X-WWCG members posts and websites and sadly it seems there was a really dark side of the whole experience. But I think there are dark sides to every denomination so I wouldn’t blame Armstrong for all the bad. Perhaps I was sheltered from some of that junk due to my church experience being limited to up to age fourteen. I know my sister, who is 8 years older, didn’t have a great time in the WWCG, especially in her teens, but I haven’t had the privilege of picking her brain on it. I also have a X-WWCG member friend of mine who is 15-20 years older that I meet with in person every few months to fellowship with and he didn’t have that bad of an experience either. Some of us were spared from the pain that so many others experienced.
In the present day I find myself very nostalgic of those WWCG times. One of the things I still enjoy doing is going online an listening to online recordings of “The Bible Hymnal” and sing along (our very own WWCG original hymn book that 95% were songs that were written for specifically our church). You can find most of them on YouTube. As a college trained musician I can attest that these hymns are written just as well as any other hymns out there – and they are just as catchy. I’m also nostalgic for that great sense of being “called out” that the church brought. When you are told that you are one of the privileged few have the real “truth” to matters of humanity and spirituality it makes you feel really special, and admittingly, better than everyone else. You always interrupt the world from the position of “we’ve got it all figured out and you don’t”.
The highlight from my childhood memories of the WWCG were the annual pilgrimages to Wisconsin Dells for the week-long church festival called the Feast of Tabernacles. We all used to get “feast fever” in the months leading up to the church holiday due to the excitement. Although I just asked my mom and dad if they felt the same way too – they said no. Mom says that the only thing she enjoyed was not having to cook for a week and the brief break of getting out her normal housewife routines. My dad said that the sermons were not very good and it was a real financial stress on the family.
The festival was to represent/celebrate the goodness of what the new Kingdom will be like at Christ return. So basically it was a vacation for kids in the beginning of the school year where we got to eat out every day, go on amusement park rides and do family fun – just so long as we didn’t complain about the 10am services every day (they did A.M. and P.M. double services on the first and last day if I remember right -uggg). The Feast of Tabernacles was such a great time for a kid. I love having all those memories of celebrating what the world tomorrow in God’s soon coming Kingdom would be like.
CAN’T STOP THINKING WWCG
As I’ve aged I’ve found that the influence of the WWCG on my childhood was profound, and thankfully overall good. As an adult I still feel as though my WWCG experience is like an unresolved equation. I don’t think about my first girlfriend, or first house, or jobs I’ve had, or people I’ve known in the same way. Those have all come to pass and I don’t dwell on them. I’ve moved on. But when I comes to the WWCG I can’t get it off my mind, sometimes daily. I don’t even know what I’m searching for…but I keep searching. I scouring the internet looking for any history I can find in old documents and articles, learning about the splinter groups, going on Facebook and searching for folks that I remember seeing at the WWCG services, and so on. I’ve tried to invite as many Minneapolis WWCG people as I could find to read these blog posts – both so that you could hear my story, but also because I’m deeply interested in you and would love to hear your story. Maybe we could to a phone call or shoot me and email!! What were the changes in winter 94′ like for you? How did you come to your conclusions? Where are you at now with faith? You must have some great stories!
I LOVE YOU GUYS
Lastly, to those of you current/former WWCG’ers, thank you for all the good times and raising me up in the knowledge of God. I did not turn from knowing Him. My walk with Him is priceless and you guys played a big role in establishing the ways of the Kingdom into my heart. I love my God! And I hope to rejoice with you all when at last His Kingdom is established in full on this earth and when at the end of the age we will reign with Him forever. The love of God in Christ to you all, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:38-39.