The Story of Gloria Astrid Hestle
On 14 March 1999 Gloria Astrid Hestle posted the following account of her experiences in the ICC to the usenet newsgroup alt.religion.christian.boston-church. It is reposted here with her permission.
From: "Gloria Astrid Hestle" firstname.lastname@example.org> Newsgroups: alt.religion.christian.boston-church Subject: my experience with the ICC (while still known as the "Boston Movement" Date: Sun, 14 Mar 1999 12:43:47 -0500
Hi. I ran into this newsgroup accidentally, but after reviewing some of the messages, I thought it a fine opportunity to write my story.
I grew up in the Church of Christ. Traditional Church of Christ, I suppose you would call it (or is it Southern in its nature? I don’t know). In any case, my parents offered me a strong foundation before I matured into an adult and left the nest. Unfortunately, they didn’t offer a strong enough foundation. Their faith was never very strong, and the church I attended for the majority of my formative years was equally weak (in character, in worship, in communication…perhaps an attack of stagnation folllowing economic booms and busts). Needless to say, when, as a teenager, I went through my rebellious phase and needed guidance, I didn’t find it in my parents and had trouble finding it in the church. The morals I learned growing up stuck with me, but the “idea” of religion and faith became foreign.
And I was ultimately very unhappy and very lonely.
When I moved to New York to attend a conservatory for my sophomore year of college, I bumped into the New York City Curch of Christ (a huge group of people believing in the “Boston Movement.”)
At first, I was thrilled to have found so many people my age who loved God and worshipped Him, who studied together and comforted one another. But as I grew closer to the members I met, I grew more apprehensive. Words would be said that seemed in conflict with what they intimated they believed. There was a feeling of hypocrisy that I encountered…and I had this twinge of pain in my gut — and I found that suddenly felt even more alone and unsettled.
These girls approached me at a party. And they were kind and sweet, and they seemed really genuine. And they invited me to their study groups (which I attended, even if I were barely alive from work and school and homework and rehearsal), and finally they invited me to their church. And I should have known after I went.
There were traditions and boundaries that were broken, and I knew I was not seeing a “traditional” Church of Christ. Again, at first, I was enthused, but I was also a bit confused and tried to sort it out.
But then came the big “lesson.” These girls who seemed so friendly came to do a personal “Bible Study” with me. And they tried to convince me that I wasn’t REALLY a Christian, that my baptism certainly could not have offered me the salvation that is promised because I wasn’t a member of their “club” (that’s what I’ll call it). I was heart-broken. And I was crying. And they left me there like that in my room, crying, after taking but a brief pause to pray that the date for which they were leaving would go “really well.”
Who does that? Who comes into your life and accuses you of remaining damned, despite your following the gospel, and then prays for a good date and LEAVES!
For a good half hour I thought I might as well flee the church altogether, live my life of sin and go to Hell…then I got myself together enough to call some people who were influential people in my life, God-fearing people, who I knew could help me.
While I don’t view my dad as a very faithful man, he is someone who REALLY knows the Bible. I called him. Then my mother got on the phone (she certainly IS very faithful), and she calmed me down and told me she would call this woman who had sculpted me as I grew in my Christianity. Mary Tao. The woman was such a blessing that night. She called me and talked me through the points that had been thrown at me and helped me develop my own Bible lesson that I could share with these girls to explain why I think I AM saved. And Mary prayed with me. And I felt a good bit better.
I didn’t know how to approach the girls again. I knew that despite the fact that I didn’t see them frequently outside of Church events I would have to speak to them eventually and it would be better, wiser and more adult to develop this lesson and meet them face to face.
Which I did. Christa was the girl who came over the second time, but she wasn’t interested in my thoughts. Nevertheless, I gave her a copy of the outline I had developed explaining my Salvation, my belief in the church in which I had grown up and my uniqueness as a member of the body of Christ (not everybody is a hand…someone has to be the foot…). Fortunately, she took it much more gracefully than I had thought she would. She thanked me for being honest with her and at least speaking to her about it (most people apparently just quit taking the calls and quit attending the activities), and she left saying that we had agreed to disagree (or to quote something they said frequently, she was shaking the dust from her feet, so to speak). She called once again after that, weeks later, and I had been at work and misplaced her number — so I really couldn’t return her call. I wonder sometimes what she wanted…but I was much happier attending a church I could understand , a church that I knew didn’t want to brainwash me or dictate my life to me…at the Manhattan Church of Christ, much smaller, much more intimate and far less cruel.
What began to nag at me, when I originally met all these friendly people, was the constant use of the same words amongst the members… “The same sheet of music” (everyone used this) or the hint that we weren’t to have friends outside of the church (but where were we to find people to convert then???)
It was a horrifying experience for me that fortunately did not last more than a month, but I learned an important lesson. And I think I’m glad I did.
I don’t disagree with the philosophy that Christians are to be fishers of men. That’s one of Christ’s requests. But it also isn’t the only request Christ made of us…and there are several instances where he explains that different people have different functions within the church, and even as a disciple – you can’t always seek out the conversion. God gives you the opportunity, and you take it…not the other way around. Sure, we as Christians have not done a sufficient job in our call to evangelize and teach the Word to all the nations, but we do our best. And we try. And we all use the gifts God gave us in the best way we know how.
Now I live in Boston, and try to figure out where to find a non-Boston Church to attend (any suggestions???), and pray for my brother, who has recently fallen into the movement in Connecticut (I warned him. I told him about my experience and explained that I didn’t want to see him hurt…but he’s happy, and I won’t interfere with that)…
I hope anyone else who has had a similar experience with the International Church of Christ will not be put off by religion altogether because of one particular “movement.” I would hate to think that someone’s faith could be destroyed altogether by this group.
Gloria Astrid Hestle