Thursday, May 05, 2005

November 18, 1988

(I issue my usual disclaimer that the account of these events is but one view, my own.)

The Fellowship of Christian Students had regular meetings on Wednesday evenings in the student union, but we also liked to get together on off nights for Bible study, prayer, or some pizza and goofing off. We enjoyed being together, so when one member said that she had use of a conference room at the hotel she worked at and would we like to use it, we jumped at it. It was a Friday night, November 18, 1988; we had nothing to do the next day except sleep, so off we went.

I mentioned earlier that my favorite worship band setup consists of merely two acoustic guitars. Our regular worship leaders provided that, settling into the usual list of our favorite songs. To this day, when people ask me about feeling God's presence in a meeting, I point to that day. I have never before or ever since felt the presence of God as I did that day. It was so tangible you could cut it with a knife. At different points in the time of singing people fell to their knees, and then some fell on their faces, in a posture of prayer and reverence. Eventually the music stopped and we were silent. I can only speak for myself- I didn't want to move. Someone then had a "word of prophecy" that the Lord wanted us all to remain silent before him, but really, we didn't need to be told. We just knew.

Eventually the glory cloud dissipated and we continued the meeting. In true charismatic fashion we decided to begin praying for one another. One person volunteered, we put them in the middle of the circle, laid hands on them and prayed. Same with the next. And the next. The prayers weren't that in depth, no big personal issues being discussed, it was just a way of supporting each other.

At some point the room divided in two. A woman drifted off into one corner, lost in a funk of depression, and a few people went over to pray for her. I was in that group. In another corner another woman was being prayed for. As good as I am at remembering minutiae, the details get kind of sketchy for me at this point, especially regarding the woman I wasn't praying for. At some point things began to get weird. She began to get loud, much louder than I would have expected from her. The people in that corner stepped up their own volume, and began praying with an authoritative tone reserved for Satan and his minions. In my corner the woman being prayed for was sitting cross-legged, crying, and bending over until her head touched the floor. My corner looked like a 70's encounter group session. The other corner? Well, the very male-sounding voices coming from a female body kind of tipped me off that we were seeing something we hadn't encountered before. When I took short glances that way I saw her being held down and being prayed for/prayed at.

Then the woman on my side let out some sort of guttural roar. It was a deep tone that she shouldn't have been able to make, and although I don't get scared per se, it definitely got my attention. This whole thing was just getting too bizarre. The prayers continued. Some people left the room, unable to handle what was going on. What I didn't realize until later that night was that someone from the hotel staff called the police. They were circling the place in their vehicle, and I saw two officers in the lobby when I went out briefly to get a drink. Why they didn't break the thing up I'll never know.

I said before that Bowling Green Covenant Church saw themselves caught up in the charismatic fads of the 70's, and what took place that night was what they would call a deliverance session, a la Derek Prince, Don Basham, the Pigs In The Parlor book, etc. In both corners demons were being cast out. At least in theory they were being cast out. Only the two women in question could tell you for sure, all I can offer is my theory, and that theory's possible. I wasn't on the other side, I don't know for sure, but what I saw looked like demons being cast out. In my corner? I think it's possible that some sort of psychological event was happening, the release of pain that hadn't been dealt with, the release of emotions that couldn't be expressed in any other context.

Whatever happened, it was very real to the women involved, and that's all that matters, right? Well.... is that for me to say? Does the existence of free webspace to spew my opinions mean that I have to have one every time? Religious experience can be a touchy thing.

It took two months before someone from the church gave us a framework for understanding what happened that night, two months before an in-depth Bible study answered some questions and raised more. It shouldn't have even taken two weeks. In that two months we became deliverance crazy. We began to see demons hiding behind every rock. Some people just took off from FCS at that point, not wanting to be a part of such craziness. Me? I stayed. I had issues of my own, battling a depression that threatened to devour me, but "deliverance ministry" wasn't offered to me. The spiritual experiences of men and women, and whether one sex is more prone to ecstatic experiences, would make an interesting study. Alas, another story for another time.


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