Trouble stirring in 'God's House'

Norwich Bulletin/August 1, 2003
By Don Bond

Plainfield -- The two remaining inhabitants of God's House at 88 Church St., defied a legal notice to vacate the property Thursday.

"This is not J. C.'s house, this is truly God's house, so there is no way we could even consider leaving," said J.C. Foster, who with Sister Rachel are the last members of the religious group still living at the Church Street house.

Foster and other members of his small group moved into the residence on Church Street in the mid-1980s. The house was owned by Benjamin Zimmerman. He joined the group, becoming known as Brother Joshua, and later signed a document deeding the house to God in 1990. When he brought the document to Town Hall to place it on file, however, town officials refused to accept it.

Despite occasional flaps with neighbors, the group has continued to live at the Moosup residence since then. Neighbors frequently have complained about the appearance of the house, which is covered with signs proclaiming scripture and other messages of faith. Other signs warn those who have attempted to remove the group from the house, including former First Selectman Paul Sweet and former Tax Collector Henry Daley, of impending doom.

"God will come down upon this town with a vengeance that has been unseen since He delivered His children out of Egypt," Foster said Thursday. "People will be damned if they don't believe this is God's house. One of the worst sins anyone can commit against God is to not believe in Him."

Town officials ordered the removal of the signs because they violate zoning regulations. The signs were still there Thursday.

The notice ordering the group to vacate was sent several weeks ago by Richard Asal, who was appointed by the Plainfield Probate Court to serve as conservator for Zimmerman. According to group members, Zimmerman is now in a Norwich nursing facility. Two other original members of the group also have moved into senior housing.

The notice, prepared by Asal's lawyer, John J. McGrath Jr., contends the group has no right or privilege to occupy the premises.

"We have suffered from cancer, we have suffered from hunger and we've suffered criticism, but that is all part of God's plan for us," Foster said. "We still love all of our neighbors."

"This is God's house," Sister Rachel said. "He'll be able to keep us here. We know this is true because He's told us so."


Nov. 1981 -- God's House residents are evicted from a house on Pleasant Street, Dayville, by court order after a foreclosure on an unpaid mortgage. State police charge three group members with trespassing.

Nov. 1982 -- Superior Court Judge Paul Vasington orders members J. C. Foster, Sister Esther and Sister Magdal to vacate Academy Street in Danielson for failing to pay rent. The town houses the group at Bon Aire Motel, Dayville.

March 1984 -- Foster and three female members are convicted of criminal trespass and reckless endangerment for camping out in front of the motel after being evicted. Foster was sentenced to time served; the women got 30-day suspended sentences.

Foster then sleeps in the gazebo in Danielson's Davis Park for several weeks, receiving tickets police for trespassing.

1985 -- The group moves to 88 Church St., Moosup. The owner, Benjamin Zimmerman, becomes a member of the group, using the name Brother Joshua. He fills out paperwork deeding the house to God, but Plainfield officials refuse to accept the document.

May 1995 -- Plainfield police and the state Department of Children and Families remove a 4-day-old infant from the house. The child, named Hilary Blockmon by the group, is placed in a foster home then up for adoption after sect members refused to attend court hearings.

Sept. 1995 -- Town officials order religious signs removed from God's House, saying they violate zoning regulations.

July 2003 -- Richard Asal Sr. of Thompson, appointed as conservator for Zimmerman, notifies members they must leave the premises by July 31.

July 31, 2003 -- Foster and Sister Rachel vow to remain at the house they say God has provided them.

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