April 13th, 1998.

Whether it's true or not.

Well, that's Easter over and done with. But what is the relevance of an egg? I thought Easter was about Jesus getting nailed to a big cross then dying? I can't see the egg connection myself. Still, I guess that somewhere there is one.

Staying with the whole church/religion theme, let me tell you about something that has somewhat annoyed me recently. A friend of mine came up to Birkenhead this past weekend with his wife and on Sunday she went to a local church she used to attend which I'll call the 'We're all Christian Centre' to protect its identity.

On its own this isn't the most eventful bit of news, but here's where it relates to me. While there, some religiously brainwashed follower approached my friend's wife and told her that I had written something on my website about her that was "not very nice."

There seemed little point in making this claim as it wasn't difficult to prove this to be without even the smallest grain of truth. The person who made this claim, who I'll call Steven Prickly, was obviously either lying or guilty of listening to unfounded gossip dreamed.

On its own, this incident would have perhaps seemed humorous to me if it wasn't for the fact that this person who made the claim has never once met me, doesn't know me, and obviously either lied or listened to gossip about me.

I am puzzled why Mr. Prickly, and his sidekick who I shall call Karen Inner-Man, along with all the other 'centroids' who attend this church, have such a strange fascination with the goings-on of my life. What possible motivation lies behind making up such an easily dispelled claim? Sadly though, this would seem to be typical of the kind of behavior one can expect from many of the people who attend the 'We're all Christian Centre.'

I suppose though it's the price of my infamy within the 'We're all Christian Centre.' After all, I was once a member of that place myself. Some four years ago (1994) the preacher, who I'll call Rev. Paul Epsom, took exception to the fact that his hormonally-charged daughter, who I'll call Natasha, visited my flat on many occasions looking for something more than spiritual input.

This was somehow all my fault and Daddy decided that he'd put an end to Natasha's little visits by booting me out of his dodgy cult-like church without so much of a word of warning.

One sunny Sunday morning in 1994 The Rev. Epsom marched up to his throne and announced that I was "disfellowshipped" (excommunicated from the church) for "sexual immorality." No mention was made about his daughter or her frequent visits to my flat. Instead, the ever spotless Natasha sat dutifully in stony silence next to her mother, Mrs. 'Evil-in' Epsom.

Rev. Epsom's hostile actions on that day had damaging and discouraging effects throughout the lives of many of my friends at the time. Some had attended the church for many years, and all were threatened with the same punishment if they continued to associate with me in any way.

Despite the biblical principles of Matthew 18:15-18, at no point did Rev. Epsom attempt to contact me about the alleged "sexual immorality." So I was forced to demand a meeting with him to learn his explanation for such a draconian action.

At first, the Rev. Epsom refused to meet with me, instructing his secretary to deflect my attempts to arrange a meeting. However, after I took the matter to the main 'Elm' church body, Epsom granted a meeting which he said would be a private "man to man" meeting between the two of us. However, the night before the meeting, an anonymous party called me and told me that the "man to man" meeting was no such thing, and in fact, Epsom has required all the church elders and their wives to be present.

The meeting was as farcical as the action itself. Initially, Epsom, a man many years my senior, had rearranged the tables in the room to resemble some kind of courtroom, where presumably he could impressively 'prosecute his case. He sat at the 'head' of the now 'U' shaped table with all the elders and their wives. Before them, they had placed a single chair, without a table, for me to feel the full intimidation he was very obviously attempting to impose.

I greeted everyone politely, shaking hands and making a point to have eye contact with everybody in attendance. Then I moved the tables into a square shape and suggested we get some tea made for everyone in the room. Epsom didn't like that, instead, he remained seated and said nothing as I rearranged the tables and asked various people to move.

Once the meeting was underway the Rev. Epsom threw all sorts of accusations at me that were either just secondhand rumors or snippets of groundless gossip he had listened to. I nodded my head and made notes on a pad that I had brought along with me for its theatrical value as much as its practical use.

I asked him why, if he was so concerned, had he not approached me to find out whether the gossip he'd listened to was even true. He said what has now become a timeless classic quote among my friends; "Whether it's true or not is irrelevant!"

Throughout the meeting, Epsom drew upon gossip and lies, stating at one point "I can do what I want in my church." A chilling statement from a man charged with the pastoral care of his congregation.

On the many occasions his lies left him exposed and cornered he would simply stay silent and refuse to answer my questions. I would let the silence hang in the air long enough for the absurdity and injustice of this kangaroo court to become deafening while Epsom fixed his eyes on me and pursed his lips.

I'd been forewarned by those who knew Rev. Epsom better than I did, that the meeting would merely be an exercise that would change nothing as Epsom ruled "his church" with the iron fist of a power-crazed megalomaniac. To nobody's surprise, they were right. After the one-and-a-half-hour meeting, the outcome was, as expected, unchanged.

The thing that bothers me the most about Pastor Epsom is the fact that he is supposed to be a 'man of God.' However, his overly comfortable lifestyle, unapproachability, and heavy-handed techniques seem entirely at odds with the principles of Christian behaviour.

Four years have passed since this ill-conceived graceless incident. At the time Epsom announced to the church that God had told him I would "run away" and leave the area and "soon be gone." But I have done nothing of the sort. I have simply gone on with my life despite the frequent occasions when members of the 'We're all Christian Centre' seek to stir up trouble for no logical reason.

I can only but speculate that the motives behind such acts may be to provide an element of drama and ephemeral diversion to what might otherwise be a boring religious life. But really, who knows?

Of course, now that I have written this, members of that church will no doubt read it and see whatever it is they want to see. I've become a kind of 'poster bad guy' for the 'We're all Christian Centre.' So in that capacity, I am now happy to take bookings for scary appearances at prayer meetings and house groups, although you'll have to provide the cloak and stick-on horns for me.

This article was written and published in 1998 and usually I don't post addendums or follow-ups, even when my opinions change. However, despite the fact that neither 'Rev. Epsom' or anyone from the leadership of the church in question have ever attempted to contact me, several members of the congregation have done so over the years, mostly to express their displeasure that I chose to publish this, and sometimes just to hurl abuse. For those people I wrote an addendum which you can read here.