Saturday, April 5, 2008


Although I have never been a member of Alleluia! I have had experience with a family from that community. In fact, it was this experience that spawned my research into covenant communities and, thus, helped form this blog. We are thousands of miles from Augusta, Georgia and this poor family is a fish out of water as they adjust to life in the "real" world. They left unwillingly for employment reasons and are still full members of the community. I know the mother would like to return.

I would like to comment on this idea of codependence that a former Alleluia! member addressed in a comment on this blog for that is what I experienced with this family. I was, essentially, a covenant community substitute when they moved in. As I didn't know what I was dealing with and I was trying to be a good neighbor and help them to adjust, I found myself called upon again and again to do things for them. The normal boundaries between neighbors did not exist. Unfortunately, when I finally had to address the problem with them the relationship was over. I do hope, however, that the mom is adjusting to life outside of the community. I know her children want no part of that community life again and are enjoying the liberation attained by their move.

The thinking of this community pervades their thoughts and language still. A mutual friend (female) who works with the father in the RCIA program called me trying to understand the father's comments to her when she asked his opinion on a theological aspect of the RCIA formation they were teaching. He said that he could not answer her as did not want to interfere with her spiritual relationship with her husband. I could not at first understand this comment but it dawned on me that he thought she and her husband had a (or should have a) headship relationship and that her husband was her ONLY spiritual advisor and no one could substitute or augment that. This happened just a few months ago which was 2 years after their move here. So this strange thinking continues AND it seems that this community member believes we should all have that same headship relationship in any good Catholic family. Hooey!

Let us pray that their experience outside the community will open their eyes to the Truth of this community way of living. It is not liberating. It is not Truth.


Anonymous said...

It's Anon. again! I am new to this blogging thing so it took me awhile to find this again.

I don't want to go into details, in order to maintain anonymity, but basically, our family left Alleluia because we discovered that there was manipulation of people and misuse of funds and there was an "elite" group of leaders who did not have to do as everyone else had to do. Also, several leaders did not have jobs outside the community. Their jobs were to be an elder or in charge of music ministry or such things. And those members who had outside jobs that gave prestige and the appearance of credibility to the community were cut slack in the way they lived community life too.

All not-for-profit groups publish a financial statement at least once a year to show how money has been handled. This never happened in the Alleluia Community (which I understand is celebrating its 35th birthday currently). Even though we were told that the books were open. When anybody I knew asked to see them, they were told they wouldn't understand them, or or else they were explained by someone who could make the explanation sound however it needed to to satisfy the person. I was asked, "Do you really understand this stuff?" And when I said that I didn't, it was suggested to me, politley, that wouldn't it be a waste of time for the busy accountant to have to try to explain it to me when he had business to take care of and I wouldn't understand it anyway.Of course, I dropped the subject at that point.

I know there was manipulation because I participated in it. I did as I was told, afterall, I was a good, obedient community member. So when I was part of a women's group, for instance, I told everything that everyone said and did as I was asked by the leaders so they could "have the information they needed to properly lead the community". I guided people in the directions I was advised to guide them.

I unwittingly and with misplaced good intentions fell right in with a system that is reminiscent of what I have read of the Soviet Union in the 1960s and 70s. People felt that whatever they said to anyone else could and would get back to those in power and could possibly go against them. In Alleluia people quickly learned to be very guarded with what they shared and with whom. However, people who did not spill their guts to their head or handmaiden were considered to be "not good community members". They were classed as rebellious becasue they did not comply with the way we did things in Alleluia.

"I love you and you love me" was frequently sung and expressed verbally. But saying the words does not make it true. Also, being forced to "serve" someone (by cleaning their house, caring for their kids, giving them your car, mowing their yard, etc) because you knew you would not be considered a good community member (which implied that you were going against God who had raised up the community and the elders and called you to be a member)was not a sign of love. You served out of fear or from peer pressure and the desire to belong. You said you served out of love. But it was rarely motivated by love.

One example of the manipulation used to get people to comply was regarding prayer. In your support group (these groups have had various names, but it would be a group of people with whom you were put and were supposed to relate more closely than with others), the leader would go around the room asking each person about their prayer time. Since the community was strongly guided by prophecy (which, I have come to see can spring from subconscious motivations to be a good community you "receive" prophecies that will support what the leaders want,) often there were specifics in prophecies about prayer times. For instance, maybe you were supposed to pray for an hour every day or memorize certain scriptures. So when it was your turn to report, in front of everyone in your group, you were under pressure to come off sounding like a good community member. It was unheard of for someone to say, "You know, I was just too tired on Mon and Tues, so I took a nap instead. And on Wednesday I blew it off so I could go out to eat with my wife. On Thursday I prayed for 35 minutes. Then on Friday, I went to First Friday Mass. That should count-right? And on Saturday I wanted to watch TV, and the only time spot I had as possibly open was that hour..."

Community life was so totally encompassing of your life that you, in a sense, HAD TO comply, or at least appear to be compliant. After your family was so entangled with community, after you had moved to live close to other members, your kids were in the community school, you were part of a men's or women's group, your finances were compromised from the mandatory 10% tithe to the community and 5% tithe to the school, etc, it was too difficult to think of not going along with things at some level considered acceptable by the community.

You were either in or out. There was no partial or modified way to belong, especially after you signed the covenant. That was another thing that led us to leave. The Bishop made it clear that the community covenant was not a covenant in the sense that marriage was, but that it was a simple promise. But the community taught that it was on par with the marriage covenant or holy orders. It was a solemn vow.

If you would like, I can post the community covenant here. You will see that it goes along with some of those 20 signs in that article about getting involved with religious groups (that is someplace else on this blog- I don't know how to find it- it is a hyperlink somewhere). I will post more later when I have time.

lisa a. said...

Hi again Anon!

I believe your conscience got the best of you in a good sense as you began to question the goings-on in Alleluia! You are free but I know troubled from your experience. Adrian and Marie Reimers who are helping with this blog also left POP (a sister community of Alleluia!) and have many helpful talks and an online book (which I read in a w/e) that can be accessed from this blog. I'm sure they would make themselves available to talk to personally as they have helped many people leave and adjust to life outside of the community. Adrian's job was with POP so he had to leave his livelihood when leaving--not an easy thing to do. I also hope that you have found a new parish where you live. Marie's concern is that people leave the Catholic Church when leaving a covenant community (throwing out the baby with the bathwater) because they cannot separate the two. They are not the same.

It is interesting that you bring up the Soviet Union as a comparison to the mistrust established in the community by having to divulge everything you know about everyone. When reading your comment on codependence, I recalled hearing that, after the fall of the Soviet Union the people had great difficulty with their new-found freedoms. In fact, many wished that they did not have so much freedom as they were incapable of handling all of the choices this freedom implies. To paraphrase the late John Paul II, "with freedom comes responsibility". So maybe this covenant community attracts people who like their lives fully managed and maybe people come in not codependent but becoming so because of the requirements and manipulations of the community. It would be nice to get a psychologist on board here to talk about these things.

Did you know Christopher West was a member of Mother of God? As a young man having grown up in this community, he approached the bishop with his concerns--many of which were the same as yours. The bishop could speak and monitor this community because they called themselves a Catholic community. Thus Cardinal Hickey's letter. POP and Alleluia and others do not call themselves Catholic (even though most members are) and thus get out from under the local bishop and obedience to him.

Anyhow, tell us how your family is faring now: your children, your husband, you.

lisa a. said...

PS. Don't forget to bookmark this blog so you can find it easier. BTW how did you find us?

Anonymous said...

Anon-here! I found out about this blog from Adrian Reimers. He was a great help in my adjustment to leaving Alleluia years ago. I wanted to comment on something someone said about POP somewhere else on this blog which seemed to conflict with Adrian's report on time spent as a member of POP. They said they had a great experience in POP. It was my experience that the leaders treat different people differently. And the secrecy that exists (or, perhaps it should be called the "one way flow of information") allows this to occur, which enhances the manipulation, and therefore you end up with a "he says she says" situation. So let's look at something that is NOT subjective. Look at the printed teachings of these communities. I know Alleluia got many of its teaching series from POP and related communities (e.g. Basic Christian Living Series, etc). I still have all of these teachings. I will post selections from them and from the Alleluia Covenant in a few days when I have more time. From them, you can judge for yourself, objectively, whether these communities teach a lifestyle and thought process that is in synch with the Catholic Church, or any church, or with the freedom the Lord has given us (hint:they march to the beat of a different drummer and that drummer is neither Catholic or Protestant and he has no fife player marching along with him because he is not marching to herald freedom).

By the way, I bookmarked this page as you suggested. Blogging is new to me and I keep having trouble finding just where I posted comments and how to get back to them. Thanks for listening!

lisa a. said...

So you already know Adrian! That's wonderful. I'm thinking we could post some of your material on this website and then comment on it. So go ahead and put it in a comment (cut and paste it in) and then when I receive it as an email for moderation, I'll place it as a post instead.

You know you can still remain anonymous but give yourself a pseudoname. I post as girlnextdoor on other forums. I do, however, understand your desire for anonymity as I edited my posting on Alleluia! once I found out that our blog comes up on the second page now (we've moved up!) and it wouldn't surprise me if Alleluia! members point my neighbors to this website and that could cause more friction. So, believe me, I know. I'm not out to hurt anyone so I'm writing knowing that they may be reading--probably a good practice anyhow.

lisa a. said...

So you already know Adrian! That's wonderful. I'm thinking we could post some of your material on this website and then comment on it. So go ahead and put it in a comment (cut and paste it in) and then when I receive it as an email for moderation, I'll place it as a post instead.

You know you can still remain anonymous but give yourself a pseudoname. I post as girlnextdoor on other forums. I do, however, understand your desire for anonymity as I edited my posting on Alleluia! once I found out that our blog comes up on the second page now (we've moved up!) and it wouldn't surprise me if Alleluia! members point my neighbors to this website and that could cause more friction. So, believe me, I know. I'm not out to hurt anyone so I'm writing knowing that they may be reading--probably a good practice anyhow.

Anonymous said...

If you look at the Alleluia Community Covenant, you will notice that some of the lines could be quite freely interpretted.
When entering into "full covenant" status, the community member reads this covenant and signs his/her name to it. This signed document, one that proclaims to represent a solemn and serious commitment, in the hands of the misguided or unscrupulous leader, could be dangerous. For instance, take the line:
recognize...the coordinators (who are the elders or leaders of the community)...agree to obey...them.

How far does obedience go? Based on this covenant, it is only limited by, as the saying goes, what the market will bear. In other words, whatever they can get away with. If the member is easily intimidated, the sky's the limit.

There were people who, out of a desire to "give all to the Lord", gave their life's savings to the community along with all material goods they possessed. Did any leader try to stop them or advise them to hold on to something for their children or, perhaps, do it over time, in case their circumstances should change? No. Whatever was offered was taken, and in most cases was distributed to other members who did not and could not appreciate it. (I think most people would agree that you appreciate what you have worked for or what you have been deprived of and then, finally recieve, like those truly in great need.)

A common situation was a single working person who, when they joined the community, moved in with a family to become part of a "household" (this was the "preferred" living situation, so singles were told). He/she often divested him or herself of household goods which all went to the other community members. Afterall, where would these goods fit? Not in the tiny bedroom the single adult undoubtedly shared with another single adult.

But then, later, if he/she wanted to get married, was anything he/she had originally given away returned? No. Even when some households had more than enough, sometimes of items that even had sentimental value to the person who had originally divested him/herself of them, what had once been given was not returned.

The meaning of divest is:
1. to strip of clothing, ornament, etc.: The wind divested the trees of their leaves.
2. to strip or deprive (someone or something), esp. of property or rights; dispossess.
3. to rid of or free from: He divested himself of all responsibility for the decision.

The Alleluia Community taught that it was a holy thing to divest oneself of worldly goods. It was a good thing to not have "idols", as attachment to material things can lead to. But, rather than donate these items to the poor, they would be dispersed among the community members.

There was many a situation in which a single person, moving in with a household, or moving to a new household, needed some item (a blanket, pillow, towels, bed spread, rug, coat, blow dryer, etc) and had, when he/she had joined, given away just such items. Did anyone meet the need the single person now had? Usually, no.

Many of the community families had come from financially lower brackets and held on to things tightly. Also, many men had to leave good-paying jobs in larger cities in order to move to Augusta, GA to join the Alleluia Community. So, families who might have lived in comfort before, took a big drop in income and lifestyle "following the Lord" to Alleluia. They might have had good intentions doing this, but living it out, after the iniiitial move had been made, was often quite a bit more difficult. Alleluia taught that community members should live in close proximity to other members in order to truly be able to live committed community life.

I realize that I am getting into such a complicated area here that I probably need to tackle it in smaller chunks. But, I will leave what I have written and post it, in case it stimulates some thoughts for others, especially those who have had similar experiences.

Again, this is all a venture into the realm of the subjective vs. the objective. So, objectively speaking, the Alleluia Community encouraged people to divest themselves of their worldy goods, to hold all things in common (like they taught the members that the Acts of the Apostles Christian communities did)and to see that all members had their "needs" met before anyone indulged their own "wants".

But who is the judge of your needs and wants? Shouldn't it be, for instance, the parents for their own family? No. In Alleluia men met regularly and one of the things they did was to share their budgets. As you might imagine, there was pressure, both spoken and unspoken, to spend their money a certain way. If a need was "seen" by someone's head, they might encourage someone else to "meet that need". If your head suggested something to you, that pretty much meant you "had to" do it or else you would be looked upon as rebellious.

You know what- I can't seem to restrict myself to one small area. I am going to stop here for now. I hope others will post, based on some of the things I have shared here.

Anonymous said...

A few excerpts from leaflets and other publications the Alleluia Community has put out over the years:

"The New Testament teaches that Christians should live in committed, supportive relationships that affirm sound doctrines and properly ordered lifestyles. The independent lifestyle so characteristic of our modern society is opposed to these values and is contrary to the spirit of the New Testament. Today it is extremely difficult to maintain high Christian ideals, in faith and in practice, without living in a closely knit Christian community."

I'm sorry- but I must comment. Since I have left Alleluia, I have met so, so many wonderful, committed Christian singles and families who have high Christian ideals in faith and practice. Sometimes, we find just what we look for.

When I was looking for someplace like Alleluia, many, many years ago, I found it. I also looked for and found so many uncommitted Christians. That helped convince me that Alleluia was the way to go.

Somehow I missed a bunch of very committed Christians who were also out there. They didn't live in community, so I perceived them as "not as committed as they could be". I wanted to give myself to the Lord 100% and this radical lifestyle of community seemed the only way to do it.

I have since found out that truly living as a Christian is radical. Being Christian is radical. It doesn't have to "look" radical. What is radical is what's happening inside of me. If it's not happening inside me, then nothing on the outside will make a difference. I can "appear" to be committed by living in a community, or a convent or monastery, or in a cave as a hermit, or by attending Mass three times a day, etc, but the Lord sees what is in my heart. Unfortunately, people often only see what is on the outside. That "seeing only the outside" led to my "blinders on" decision to join Alleluia during its very early days.

In answer to the question "Do all members of Alleluia live together?":
"No. WHen we talk about living in a Christian community, we are talking about living in a set of relationships such as love, generosity, deep faith, and commitment rather than a place. In fostering these type relationships and other Christian qualities, it helps to live in close proximity to each other. Many of the members have moved together in a number of neighborhood groupings..."

Notice the subtle suggestion that if you REALLY want to be a good Christian, you, of course, will live near other committed Christians. The possibility that one could live a committed Christian life a few miles away from other Christians is made to appear unlikely. Things like this contributed to putting pressure on members to move close together. I might mention that it is also easier to monitor people, what they say, do, how they live, if they are nearby. This is yet another aspect of community life that enabled "control" by the leaders.

I will post more at another time if there seems to be interest. I must say that Alleluia learned well from the mistakes of other communities and stayed below the radar, so to speak, in many ways. While other communities were being disbanded by this Bishop or that Archbishop, Alleluia managed to live in the shadows so no one important would notice they were just like these other communities that were being disbanded.

Anonymous said...

From an Alleluia Community publication:
"For those who join Alleluia it is expected that they commit themselves in a primary way to living our Christian ideals in union with those who who have a similar desire and commitment. This means committing their time and resources, their whole lives, to the community to whatever extent is necessary to further its life and mission."

When I read this now, years after it was written, I shudder to think that I used to see it as proof that I was living a radical, committed life.

In reality, I was living a life that was structured so it would "further the purpose of its (Alleluia's) life and mission". The assumption in all this, of course, is that I was living as the Lord had called me to live. The logic of it was that "If God 'raised up' Alleluia and its 'elders', and if He had called me to Alleluia, then to follow the Lord was to follow Alleluia."

Of course, the basic premise may be flawed. I am sure Adrian could comment eloquently on this. But the idea that God had raised up Alleluia needs to be questioned. Also, even if He did raise it up, and the elders, for that matter too, who's to say they continued along the path He had intended? Yet, the assumption was that what God, supposedly, had called together, no man should put asunder, or even doubt, ever!

Adrian, maybe if I had taken some philosophy courses, I would have seen the errors in the community's thinking. Well, I am in good company in NOT having seen them. But, better late than never!-Anon.

Anonymous said...

From another Alleluia Community publication:
"Growing out of our life together comes a network of support and institutions that could be identified as an alternate lifestyle. From our covenant comes a system of government that serves Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit. Through our elders come teachings and a pastoral network that have proven effective in guiding our relationships with one another and which foster an atmosphere where we are encouraged to draw closer to Jesus. We believe that by submitting to the leadership of the elders we are able to receive a flow of grace to build the community. This has led to very fruitful results, such as: a pastoral network that has proven to be a source of grace for all of us, community gatherings that effectively serve as a means of worship and fellowship building, a teaching program that deepens our spirituality, while providing practical instruction in the Christian life, an authority system that enables the teaching of Matt. 18:15-17 to be implemented. We have our own school which enables us to have the education of our children revolve around the nucleus of the community."

Again, I am shuddering to read this, something that was published for the community's 20th anniversary.

The Catholic Church teaches that good ends do not justify evil means. In the Alleluia Community this was often exactly the problem.

For instance, the local pro-life groups know they could count on Alleluia to provide lots (hundreds) of people for their activities on Roe vs Wade day every January. The way the community handled this was to let all members know that it was "highly encouraged" to attend the march or demonstration, or picketing, or whatever, that day.

Whether you were a mom with 3 children under the age of 5, one of whom had a cold, or a working person with a 30 min lunch break, you were expected to show up and participate, rain or shine.

If you were not there, at the next community gathering, you would be asked where you were. It might be asked in a seemingly casual, conversational way. ("Hey, I didn't see you on Wednesday at the march! Were you okay?") But it was clear that you had better have a very good excuse for not having been there. To say that you are pro-life but prefer to express your pro-life sentiments in other ways than picketing in the rain with your babies, one of whom has a cold, would not be acceptable. Afterall, the community had "highly encouraged" you to attend and participate. Were you really a committed member if you did not take this "encouragement" to heart? More often than not, the people who did not go, "manipulated" the facts when they explained their absence, so it would seem acceptable. I know this for a fact from many of these people themselves! I was among them one year!

So, in essence, the community is coercing members to turn out for these events by using peer pressure and the implication that you are proving yourself a poor community member and an uncommitted Christian if you do not show up. This may not be outright mind-control, but it is psychological manipulation and is not ethical.

Such conduct and practices by the community, to me, were justifying good ends even though evil means had been used to achieve them. Yes, a lot of people showed up to the pro-life activities. But I question the motivation of some of them for showing up.

For whom does it really matter? I would think it really matters for the Lord and for the individual.

You might argue that the more people who show up at a pro-life rally, the more impact it has. But I say that there is a spiritual worth that affects things too.

I think that staying home and sincerely praying, when that is where you feel you ought to be, is more effective than "appearing" to be pro-life as evidenced by your physical presence as a result of peer pressure.

I don't know the economics of God, but it could be that the person who stayed away but prayed was logged in as an asset and the one who showed up with the wrong motivations was written in red as a liability, though the Alleluia elders would have seen one more person in attendance only as proof of a greater success.

Brainwashed said...

Anon, thank you for sharing your thoughts. I would like to add a little to this blog.

Like you, I am a former covenant member of the Alleluia community. I became involved because I thought this would be an avenue of becoming a better Christian and becoming closer to God. However, once in the community, I never felt comfortable and couldn't reconcile my feelings with the community way of life. There was something I couldn't put my finger on. . . something that made me uncomfortable. Yet, the basic premise of the community i.e. it was founded by God and the covenant must have been inspired by Him. . . led me to think that it was ME and that over time I would learn to accept this new life. Wrong! As time passed I realized that this was a sort of brainwashing. I even told "My Head" (Oh boy to think I would hand over such control of my life, it makes me shudder) this was brainwashing. His comment was, "Well sometimes our brains need to be washed".

As stated I was an early community member and things were tolerable initially. Then they started to tighten the screws. My budget was examined so that any excesses were taken and shared with the less fortunate. It reminded me of the communistic way of life. My head told me that I could only spend amounts of less than $50 without his approval. This didn't go over very well. . . but out of obedience to the community I had to submit. Then on another occasion we were told that there were no excuses for missing the general full covenant meetings. And then you had to have permission to miss any meeting. Hmmm! I remember one occasion when my in-laws were coming for a visit but no we couldn't say at home with them--we had to go to a required meeting. Control. . . control and more control.

As I look back, I still shudder about my involvement in the community. My wife didn't want to leave but I gave her no choice. She admits now that it was the best thing I could have done for my family. My children too were affected by community in a negative sense.

When we left I again breathed the fresh air of freedom and liberty. I wondered why anyone would give up their God given liberty to live under such constraints and in some cases--erroneous teachings. I reasoned that others would realize the slavery they were living under and depart quickly too. But I was wrong as the community still survives today.

I could say many, many negative things about my life in the Alleluia community. Just suffice to say, I am so glad to be out from under the control and subjugation of that lifestyle. God doesn't want his children to be enslaved by some covenant. Rather he wants us to freely choose to follow and worship Him. If you are a member of one of these communities you might ask yourself "Am I really free?"

Brainwashed said...

Anonymous, you had many good comments on your post. The statement about Alleluia "keeping below the radar" is true. I think this is mainly because the community does not fall under the authority of any church. However, I remember one occasion where a bunch of the catholic members met with Bishop Lessard of the Savannah Diocese. I forget who was in attendance although I do remember that there was at least one "Head Coordinator" there. The bishop expressed concern over several matters but the one I remember most was his concern that the community held "DELIVERANCES" as a routine matter. He told the coordinator that this must cease immediately for all catholic members. He said this was not a matter for untrained laymen. He also expressed concern for the use of "headship" in the community--again untrained laymen directing people in spiritual matters. I don't remember specifically what else was discussed as this was many years ago but this sticks out in my mind. Because I left not too long after this event, I don't remember if the community stopped doing deliverances or not. But I do know that the Bishop made it crystal clear that the deliverances must cease immediately.

Annonymous also made it pretty clear that she/he didn't want to be too specific about things because they didn't want to be identified. That is so true! I feel the same way--I suppose it is the fear of being chastised, judged, or critized--even after so many years. I'm sure it is part of the psychological entrapment we have suffered from as a result of our involvement. I remember that after my withdrawal from the community, it was difficult to assess my feelings. It has taken the passing of several years, reading materials such as found here and other places about cult involvement to sort things out in a rational way . Counselling would be helpful too, but where would you go for that? This blog and the material contained herein, has helped me understand what I went through. Thanks to the people who established this blog.

I hesitate to use the term "cult" when I refer to Alleluia because it doesn't compare to other cults that we have all heard and read about. But there are similiarities.

One thing I would like to add. Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior. He is present both in and out of communities such as Alleluia. Don't think you will miss Christ IF you leave community. He goes with you and "He will Never Leave nor Forsake you". If you are stuck someplace you don't want to be, have courage, God will not leave you. You MUST trust God in ALL things.

Anonymous said...

One of the elders has a son who is a priest in savannah. I expect there will be an appropriate spin put on community doings.
My daughter married into this group but is not a full covenant member. I can only hope she doesn't sign over her life. Unfortunately, is does tend to love groups and togetherness so the community seems like something that she would be attracted to.