Review by Rox Burkey
Author John L. Fear, with succinct editing by his son Robert Fear, provides an insightful memoir of John’s life, which was framed by his inclusion in the Exclusive Brethren. This secretive and restrictive Christian sect shaped John’s life. The religious doctrine, coupled with his childhood that was book ended between the 1929 Stock Market Crash and World War II.
Conflicting views between the Brethren and other religious viewpoints started when John attended school. I found it remarkable that young John had this insight at such a young age.
“I began to attend primary school at the age of five. The nearest one to our home was St. John the Baptist School. This was a Church of England school and it was here that I realised, for the first time, that conflicts would arise between those of us brought up in a strict Exclusive Brethren home and the world outside. It was quite a painful awakening and even at that young age I remember blaming my parents for neglecting to prepare me for these difficulties.
The problem arose immediately when I returned home after my first day at school. I told my parents that school began with a religious meeting. They appeared to know nothing about the daily act of worship known as Morning Assembly.”
The rich, vivid details of John’s life and times across each of the sections give the reader clear pictures of the people and times. Commitment to the Exclusive Brethren became questionable when leadership dictated that members maintain isolation from the rest of the world. The family was excommunicated and started down the road to religious recovery.
“James Taylor had been vitriolic in his condemnation of the Open Brethren because of their alleged compromise with the world and the ‘apostate church’ at large. I had been taught from my youth that the Open (or Christian) Brethren were, in Mr. Taylor’s words, “the dirtiest ditch in Christendom”. I passed this comment onto the Brethren representatives who visited me. They just smiled and said they did not mind what I thought of them as long as I knew that my fellowship would be valued if I cared to come to the meetings at any time.”
John’s life drastically altered. His world opened up to the possibilities when he joined the team of Billy Graham to serve God. The hindsight of retirement allowed John to reflect on his wrongs taking steps to atone where possible.
I found the memoir compelling. I can recommend this to those who want to understand how entwined historical and religious events can make a difference. I enjoyed John’s story of his evolution.
About the Author
Robert Fear has lived in
Eastbourne, on the south coast of the UK for half his life. He moved there to
be with Lynn, his future wife and is still there with her thirty years later.
As cat-lovers they have taken on several rescue cats over the years and are
owned by three at the moment – Hazell (tabby), Jet (black) and Sparky, a bouncy
For his day job Robert works as a self-employed software consultant. In his spare time he writes, edits and self-publishes books, and organises annual travel writing competitions.
Robert’s interest in travel goes back to his twenties when he spent most of his time abroad. His experiences included; a summer in Ibiza, hitch-hiking around Europe and touring the USA & Canada. His most eventful trip was in 1981 when he travelled around Asia.
Born into a religious sect known as the Exclusive Brethren, his father John took the brave step of leaving it with his young family when Robert was nine years old. Robert never saw his grandparents again but is thankful for being able to grow up outside this restrictive group. His life has been full of adventures that he would never have experienced otherwise.
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