I first met Ralph and Karen on my second day back in Seattle. There had been a tragic death in Karen’s family so they had come by the apartment for comfort and prayer. I recall Karen's mom had died suddenly and she was devastated by the loss; beside herself in tears. My dad, and Yvonne, met with them in the hallway. I came out of my room briefly to see what was going on and this was my first introduction to the practice of head coverings. Head coverings was not a practice of any church we had ever attended so this concept was very foreign.
On this day both Yvonne and Karen had doilies on their heads as they prayed. This practice has remained consistent, but regularly challenged, in the Assembly of the Body of Christ (ABC) since and the teaching is based on Paul's admonishment to the Corinthians that women should have a covering on their head whenever they pray. Of note, there is only one mention of this practice found in the entire bible and Paul, at the end of his discourse on the subject, indicates if the practice is contended there really is no such practice in the church. He essentially states it is best just to move on to more important matters if it becomes a contention. One must bear in mind also that the books labeled First and Second Corinthians were originally letters sent to the people in this one area and, I am quite certain, Paul had no idea his words would some day become concrete law for the masses rather than friendly advice. In the ABC the subject has always been a hotly debated one,legalistic and a subject filled with contention and quiet discord among both men and women. Men are told they are not to have a hat on when they pray so this too has led to many debates on whether a person working, for example, in a hard hat on a construction job is prohibited from praying. For women there has been discussion on whether the roof of a car is a covering. There have been many other contentions but if any woman chose not to adopt this practice of head-covering she was instantly labeled as “rebellious”.
I was unsure, until recently, how this practice got started in the ABC as there is really no indication any other fellowship spoken of in the bible had such a practice in the early church. My recent research shows this modern carryover of Paul's words descended from the Sharon Orphanage and is still practiced in their assembly today. This is evidenced by this report from the Sharon Star; a publication of the Sharon Orphanage in Canada.
The first meeting I attended in Seattle; the following Saturday; was at Ralph and Karen's house and was a simple prayer meeting. The following Thursday we then had a teaching meeting at the Wilcrest apartments coupled with a meal. Ralph and Karen were in attendance, as well as Greta; sister of Gilbert Larson, the current apostle of the ABC, and there was also a man named Earl along with a few others of whom I do not remember their names. Most of that night is a blur to me and Greta is the only one that really ever spoke to me. We became good friends that night since Greta had a wonderful sense of humor that matched my own.
It was 1969 and the Jesus People movement was beginning in Seattle under the leadership of a woman named Linda Meissner. Teens and college students, confused over the massive political and racial tensions in society, were looking for answers and finding them in unusual places. You might say that, at least in Seattle, a Jesus revolution was about to take off. Meissner had been able to form several ragtag groups of teens and young adults into a congealed group called the "Jesus People Army". It was clear she was looking to make a big splash in Seattle which she could then carry beyond into other locations.
The ABC, at this time, was a very informal group with no name and for a number of years would be referred to simply as "the group". At this time there was really no intent to seek a name, or become formalized as a church. The tithe, it was taught, should not be listed on a tax return as a deduction. To do so would be sin and tantamount to "robbing God". Every member of this fledgling group, except for my dad and Yvonne, were very young. Most were college age, still connected with other Christian organizations or groups, so this allowed word of this new Bible study to spread quickly. To these college kids yearning for more knowledge this new movement of studying Greek was quite appealing and they passed word among their friends. Attendance at the meetings began to quickly fill the small apartment living room and on several occasions it was even necessary to open the sliding glass doors to allow some to sit outside on the patio. My dad preached up front from a portable podium on a card table.
When Linda Meissner learned of “the group” she paid us a visit. I remember her visit only vaguely but she seemed to be an intense person and wanted "the group" to join forces with her "Jesus People Army". It was her style to infiltrate other groups, bring them into her fold and it had been very effective initially. She amassed a large group very quickly this way and my high school yearbook from 1971 even has a large picture of the Jesus People meeting in the middle of campus singing songs. None within “the group” had any intent of joining her mission however and "the group" remained separate. Linda Meissner eventually joined her group formed to "The Children of God" and she lost control of the "Jesus People Army". It was a large movement that exploded on the scene then not many years later simply vanished.
Several years after this encounter a separate faction broke off of "the group" and formed into a quasi-children of God communal movement, complete with the inherent sexual promiscuity and wife swapping that pervaded the Children of God movement. This faction was patterned after not just "The Children of God" but also the Discipleship / Shepherding movement emulated by the "Florida Five" which included Derek Prince among it's members. There was also a visit from Bob Mumford to Seattle which my dad and a few others attended but I will cover this topic more specifically in a later post since it had a large influence on the doctrines of the ABC to this day. This one meeting with Mumford brought into being the environment that caused the massive loss of love for one another and extreme intolerance found in the ABC.
The age range of "the group" expanded greatly when Greta introduced her mother, Agatha. Agatha was baptized by my dad then made a trip to California to visit her son, Gilbert Larson. Gilbert is currently considered to be “the apostle” of the ABC and, as such, is now in charge. When Agatha arrived at Gilbert's home in California she commanded Gilbert to be baptized by my dad. Gilbert, not sure if it was the right thing to do, made a trip to Seattle the very next day, spoke with my dad, was baptized, and soon thereafter relocated to Grants Pass, Oregon. Regular meetings then began then in Grants Pass but I will cover the Grants Pass era in more detail later.
"The group" grew weekly and soon outgrew the apartment so plans were made to move our family to the suburbs so my dad could find more space to grow the church. We found a home in Mountlake Terrace, which became affectionately known as "the sewer house" due to its faulty plumbing. On very hot days the sewer gasses would back up into the pipes and the smell, at times, was unbearable. We lived in this house for only a short period before we moved to a much larger home nearby.
In my next post I will cover those "sewer house" days since it explains how "the group" began meeting in many homes instead of just one. It is also where the five-fold ministry doctrine was solidified and established and explains why my dad declared himself to be an apostle. I will also detail the first big tumult that nearly divided "the group" permanently into two factions and ended with a great leaving. This great leaving of people would reoccur in many different ways throughout the years.