Pals.. at a price

The Mirror (UK)/May 12, 1997

For a second I wondered if they had been misjudged. There were babies in slings, toddlers crawling under chairs, adults chatting. But I'd been warned by cult expects to expect the smiling, friendly faces of the members in the community hall. I was being "love-bombed" - the technique used by the London Church of Christ to recruit people.

I had been invited to the meeting at South Camden Community School by Pat, a 27-year-old student I met on the Tube. She told how, if I was feeling lonely in the big city, it was a great place to meet people. She wanted my work and home phone numbers. Instead, I took hers and we arranged to go along.

At the hall, preacher Alex asked the brothers and sisters - as they call each other - to attend a wedding service for Matt and Sarah on Saturday. Pat whispered that many found partners in the church. What she didn't tell me was how the church is against its members marrying those outside the cult, and how it will set out to split them up. And how courtship and marriage is so controlled that you are even told how and when to have sex.

Disciples were collecting green Inland Revenue forms from new converts. I wasn't informed that they had just agreed to sign over a tenth of their gross wage to the church. Cult experts told me that the church raises £70 million a year from its members - most of which is divided between no more than 20 people.

I was starting to feel enormous pressure. They kept asking when I was coming again - it was hard to get out. At the station, I made my excuses to Pat and left. She wanted to visit my home and if I was vulnerable, lonely or unhappy, I might have been tempted to let her.

I know what is going on and I can stop. For those that don't, the brainwashing continues.

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