Looking Back Over Eighteen Years...

“Sometimes, you have to look back in order to understand the things that lie ahead.” 
― Yvonne Woon

This week's post will simply be a time of looking back over the past eighteen years of my life. Not all of my eighteen years were rough, there were some happy moments a long the way. My parents were the best and life really was great. My dad was a hard worker who loved his family, though that was not always shown emotionally, as he was raised under a different way than some dad's are today. My mum on the other hand was a very emotional person who came from a family who shared and expressed their feelings, though both my parents loved the Lord, my mum was the spiritual leader in our home. Though I think my dad could have been if it had not been the view of the UPC church that he was considered unsaved. But when I think back on this way of UPC thinking you could say it worked in our favor as kids...

I have made mention to the UPC lists of do's and don't's. I think by the time you hit the teen years you pretty much got an idea of what is expected of you. But if you're anything like me some times the do's and don't's just don't make sense. And when something doesn't make sense and you question it and that person really doesn't have a good answer, that's when the "fear of the rapture" card comes out. But just so you don't think I am way out to lunch in what I am writing I will copy an overview of some of the UPC rules as found in their most updated 2016 UPC Manuel that anyone can download from off the internet. Remember these are just an overview...

~Every UPC licensed minister must read and agreed to the Articles of Faith. This is a requirement to be licensed and is attested to in their license application.

~In addition, ministers are required to sign an affirmation every two years that they embrace and believe the Fundamental Doctrine of the Articles of Faith.

~Besides requiring that ministers adhere to the Articles of Faith, it may come as a surprise to some UPC church members that they, too, may also be expected to abide by these beliefs. This is specified in the UPC ministerial manual, under the section on local church government that may be used by any church wishing to adopt it for their by-laws. Article II, Section 1:1 states that "Anyone believing in and accepting the Apostolic doctrine as set forth in our Articles of Faith is eligible to become a member."

Now the following is an overview of the UPC Articles Of  Faith (the do's and don't's)...

~The UPC stipulates that baptism is a requirement for salvation. They teach that a person's sins are washed away in baptism and therefore it is essential that one be properly baptized. Therefore, baptism must be by full water immersion and in the name of Jesus or one's baptism is invalid and they are unsaved.

~The UPC teaches that one must be filled with the Holy Ghost, with the initial evidence of speaking in tongues (a language that is not known by the believer), in order to be saved. In other words, if a believer has not spoken in tongues, God's Spirit is not in them, and they are therefore lost. 

~Their fundamental doctrine of full salvation is such: "repentance, baptism in water by immersion in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and the baptism of the Holy Ghost with the initial sign of speaking with other tongues as the Spirit gives utterance." (It is interesting to note that the mention of remission of sins was not part of the original fundamental doctrine statement in 1945, but was added in 1973.)

Concerning standards, they believe in Godly living, in which their views on what constitutes such consist of the following:

~The UPC wholeheartedly disapproves of its people indulging in any activities which are not conducive to good Christianity and Godly living, such as theaters, dances, mixed bathing, women cutting their hair, make-up, amusements, and unwholesome radio programs and music. Furthermore, because of the display of all these evils on television, the UPC disapproves of any of its people having television sets in their homes. We admonish all of our people to refrain from any of these practices in the interest of spiritual progress and the soon coming of the Lord for His church." (What I find interesting is that, I know many young UPC ministers and their families along with some folks in their congregations today who take part in a lot of the above mentioned and who also have TV's in their homes. Doesn't this create hypocrisy??)

Under a section entitled 'Public School Activities' it is stated that:

~The UPC disapproves of school students attending shows, dances, dancing classes, theatres, engaging in school activities against their religious scruples, and wearing gymnasium clothes which immodestly expose the body.

~The UPC disapproves of school students being forced to take co-educational classes which involve boys and girls being mixed together in swimming, calisthenics, baseball, and other mixed athletics while clothed in ungodly attire which immodestly exposes the body.

Now the following "rules" of, what is referred to as the "standards" or "holiness" teachings, are not found in the Articles Of Faith, however every minister is aware of them and teach them in their churches, while others may be added by the individual pastor. Some ministers teach that your salvation is at stake if you do not abide by these rules. (This was the case when I, and so many others I know of, were growing up) For instance;

~There is an issue of sleeve length. Most would probably teach that a sleeveless shirt would be wrong to wear, without mandating how long the sleeve should be. Another may mandate sleeves be no shorter than the elbow, with others stipulating they must be to the wrist.

~Shorts are normally taught against for both sexes. Some allow culottes on women, while others forbid them. Gauchos and Capri are usually disallowed. Pants are not to be worn by women and men should not go shirtless.

~Facial hair on men in many churches is discouraged and their hair should be short while a woman is never to cut or trim her hair. Long hair is translated to mean uncut hair in I Corinthians 11. Some teach a woman's spirituality and/or salvation hinges on whether or not she abides by this teaching. Others teach a woman has special power in her long, uncut hair. There are ministers who mandate that women wear their hair up.

~Women are to wear dresses or skirts. Some require a set length, while others advise it should be at least to the knee. Pantyhose may or may not be required.

~There are ministers who teach against all jewelry, while others will allow a pin, ring or watch. Others claim you'll be lost if you wear a wedding ring. 

~Radio used to be spoken against. However, for years the UPC has been broadcasting a radio program. Movies are not allowed. Televisions should not be owned, however limited use of video was approved. (Yet if you want your license as a minister in the UPC, you are asked if you have a television in your home. If you answer 'yes', even if it is only for video purposes, your application will be denied at General Headquarters in Missouri.) There is a resolution that will be presented to the ministers at the 2013 General Conference in the fall that seeks to remove the mention of television from their manual.

~Video use is "strictly limited to those areas in which motion picture cameras and projectors are traditionally permitted to be used; namely, in taking of pictures of family, friends, and church activities, and the viewing of educational, religious, or inspirational films which are consistent with wholesome Christian principles. The UPC further resolves their strong opposition to viewing of all worldly motion pictures and video films as are being shown commercially in theaters and on television for entertainment purposes for the ungodly masses, and the use of them in any form for God's people. The UPC further resolves that all video receivers be so altered as to be unable to receive television channels. The UPC further resolves that none of its ministers use video in any way except as herein provided.

~The UPC passed position papers against organized sports and the Revised Standard Version of the Bible. The King James Version is accepted as the "most accurate translation of the Scriptures to be used in our churches and among our people." (Interestingly yet again, I know of UPC ministers and congregation families, who have their children signed up in organized sports, as well I have heard UPC ministers use other translations of the Bible when they have been preaching) 

I would like to reiterate that all the above mentioned "unspoken rules" are taught by some ministers, that your "salvation is at stake" if you do not abide by these rules. When I was a kid growing up UPC, if I wanted to go to the fair with my friends, I would be told that if I wanted to I could go, but...if I did go and the rapture happened, the Lord would not go looking for me in those fair grounds to take me out. This reasoning would be said for every thing that was considered "of the world".

Concluding with some interesting facts about the UPC under its present leadership ~ David Bernard;

~Since David Bernard became General Superintendent in 2010, there has been a continual push for "Apostolic Identity" in reinforcing UPC positions on holiness. In one of the 2009 issues of Forward Magazine, their official ministerial publication, there was an article about speaking against the manual, as well as an article by Bernard on the necessity of women having uncut hair.

So this was my world growing up. These were the "standard" that I had to adhere to or my salvation would be questioned. Remember me saying earlier, that in the eyes of the UPC my father was considered "unsaved". Well at least with this thinking we got to have a TV in our home. Interestingly though, when Baseball or Hockey season came around, I can remember the pastor and his wife coming around and sitting in the livingroom to watch the games with my parents.  

I'd like to share with you a story form when I was about 16. Remember the "rapture trump card"? Well I was staying at a pastor's home in Middlesex NB. Their son and family were also visiting. I was sleeping on the couch. There was a patio door that looked out over the back bush area of the home. On this particular night I was awaken to a flash of light. I lay there frozen in panic listening to see if I could hear any thunder. I couldn't hear anything. Another blaze of light went across the sky lighting up the whole backyard. I got so scarred. I panicked. I began to fear the worse, that the rapture took place and I was left behind. I remembered preachers saying that children under 12 would automatically go to heaven so I made my way into the livingroom to see if the baby was still on the sofa. I was relieved to find the baby still there. So I went back to bed, but let me tell you I couldn't wait to get to church the next day. This was my life, a constant fear of the rapture and especially during New Years Eve services. While most of the folks were rejoicing and praying the old year out and the new year in, I would be begging God not to come that night, to give me another year to get "things" right.

Please understand; I don't blame my parents. I'm sure stuff like this, there would be those who would blame their parents, but I don't. As I said once before, my mum was the one who carried out the teaching of us kids. She was my rock during all those trips to Montreal for doctor visits and hospital stays. I was very close to my mum. What you have to understand is, she was teaching us what she was being told. What she herself was taught as a teen growing up. So if I "blame" anyone, it is the rigid, judgmental, religious, dogma of the United Pentecostal Church. I had very good parents. But when a person is raised all their lives under a strict code and your taught not to question just "do", then it's hard to see and believe any differently. I would be considered a third generation Pentecostal, so it was in our blood so to speak.

Because of this, I knew what was expected of me, and because of my personality, I wanted to please and make people happy, especially my mum. I also wanted to keep God happy. So when graduation came around I had the choice of going off to Nursing School or make my way to Bible College.

The year before High School graduation I was in one of my doctor visits and he was asking me if I had put any thought into what I would like to do after graduation. I told him I was thinking Nursing School. This didn't surprise my doctor, after all, eighteen years of hospital visits, many doctors and nurses, it would be the obvious choice. But my doctor was concerned of the many hours a nurse spends on her feet so he suggested I not become a nurse but a doctor. When I calculated up all the years of schooling I'd have to take, and I didn't like school at the best of times, that was just waaaaay too much. lol So I started to consider Bible College. But again I was met with some opposition. My mum had her reasons for not wanting me to go. My pastor at the time felt like I would not be able to keep up with the demands of Bible College. What was I to do??

The Summer of '85, we were at Family Camp at Harvey NB. I was over visiting with my uncle, my mum's brother, uncle Ray Priest. He was asking me if I had any thoughts on what I'd like to do after graduation. I told him that I was thinking I'd like to go to Bible College but that mum was against the idea and so was my pastor. My uncle looked at me and said; "Paula, when you were born the doctors did not expect you to live. They did not expect you to walk or run and do all the things that most kids do. God gave you a determination to prove to the medical world, that with God all things are possible. Now what you need to do is, to allow that same God given determination, to prove to the ministry that you can over come that too".

My mind was made up and through a course of events that happened over the following year, I believed that going to Bible college was what God had in mind for me. My mum was happy, my family was happy, and my pastor and church family were happy. Everyone was happy and I was on my way...

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow, 
Because He lives, all fear is gone,
Because I know He holds the future, 
And life is worth the living, 
Just because He lives!   


  1. Amazing journey Paula. Whatever happened to "Mercy there was great--and Grace was free.....


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