Cecilie Palmer – 21/05/2013
I grew up in Wellington, NZ, and was a contrite, obedient sister! However, early in 1977 (at nearly 27 years of age) I was at Wellington Airport (correctly attired in demure dress with requisite headscarf), with my boss, seeing off an American couple, Scott and Elsa, whom I had worked closely with over the 14 months they had been in NZ. This couple were Mormons. I had refused all invitations to go out to dinner with them, and had not broken any EB rules! At the airport, a group of Mormon boys came through, and Elsa jumped out and said, “Hi guys, what Stake are you from, and how long are you going to be in NZ for?” I was amused by this and stood to the side watching their interaction.
That night, after the Prayer Meeting, my father called me into the lounge, and asked why I was at Wellington Airport that morning. I told him Scott and Elsa were leaving, and before I could say any more, he said, “You should have dropped them off at the door, and gone straight back to work”. I never told him I’d “gone for the ride”, and my boss was also there! It appears some other EBs had observed me there, and told my father of their concern. I had not seen them, and they made no attempt to speak to me.
That set me really thinking, what was so very wrong with what I had done, and why I was in the EB if you couldn’t even speak to people in a public place. After three months of soul searching, talking to pastors and ministers, and even Mormons, and being assured that if I was “saved”, I would NOT lose my salvation if I left, I plotted and planned to leave.
An older sister of my father’s had left some time earlier, and to cut a long story short, I was invited to go and live at her place, to find my feet. So on Monday, 27 June 1977, I rang home and said I would be late home (dinner was always 5.30pm on the dot), and I wanted to be home after they had finished. I got home around 6.15pm, and my parents were sitting by the fire. They both started on at me about how I should finish work at 5pm, and not stay late, and I should organise my work so this could be achieved. When they both wound down, I said, “I have something I have to tell you, which is hurtful to us all, but I have to do it. I am leaving home tonight”. The colour drained from their faces, and I hated the hurting, but I told them I could not go on with the brethren, and knew that being the case, I would need to leave home. I didn’t want to be “shut up” with them, so left that night. Two “priests” were called, and I refused to talk to them, walking past them to take stuff out to my boss’s car, which I was using because he was away overseas. I consistently continued to refuse to meet with these “priests” as I had nothing to say to them, and definitely didn’t want to hear what they had to say to me. I presume I was withdrawn from – no idea when or what for!
Since then I’ve had a lot of ups and downs in life, but have three lovely daughters, enjoy having canine companions, for ten years ran a small private school on a voluntary basis, helping children slipping through the cracks of the State education system, worked as a legal secretary, and have made some great friends in the big wide world.
If there was just one thing I could change about the Exclusive Brethren, it would be removing “separation” – being estranged from family is the price you pay for leaving, but it doesn’t make it any easier, and my three girls have grown up not knowing uncles, aunties, cousins and more. I realise that if “separation” was no longer a requisite of EB membership, the whole thing would likely fall apart, because that is a huge control factor.
Central Hawkes Bay