Guest article by Richard Gardner.
I have always had an ambition to become a successful author. It was only when I neared retirement that I actually had the time. Then there was the problem of what to write about…
I wanted to write something that was original in order to get noticed. Particularly as it was my debut novel. Then one day I had a moment of inspiration.
For nine years I had worked for a company owned by the Exclusive Brethren, recently having changed their name to the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church. Friendly people but hardly run of the mill.
When I started in 2003 the owners wouldn’t permit computers, fax machines or mobile phones on the premises. We were told that the use of such equipment was against their Christian beliefs. A policy that was overturned in about 2007 without any explanation being offered to the staff.
The Brethren kept their distance from those of us that didn’t share their faith. They wouldn’t eat with non-believers and at lunch time would use a separate canteen. The Brethren referred to us as ‘worldlies’ and there was a sense of a we and them relationship in the company.
They were our betters and we were somehow inferior. Having done research I discovered a great deal about this strange sect. Their churches for example have no windows, followers have to live in detached houses so that they don’t have to share a party wall with their ungodly neighbours and worshipers were compelled to attend meetings five times on a Sunday.
There was much more that I learnt but what troubled me most was the practice of shunning. Followers being cut adrift from family and friends for some transgression. In fact, nobody within the sect was permitted to get in contact with them again.
On Twitter I have a number of ex-Brethren followers who have suffered this way and have actually now met two of them in the flesh. The experience they say has been extremely traumatic and has effected them emotionally.
I have subsequently found out that sects like the Jehovah’s Witnesses also shun followers who stray from the straight and narrow. Of course a number of banished Brethren have written books providing factual accounts of their experiences.
What I have set out to do in my novel ‘Righteous Release’ is to look at the situation as an outsider. Without the anger and resentment of a victim. Someone who is able to put down their thoughts in writing without prejudice.
You can read more about Richard’s novel, ‘Righteous Release’ here.