OF BONDAGE - Chapter 10
By Wayne Hamburger
JOLLY’S PERSONALITY, ACTIONS AND THE CONSEQUENCES
In the last chapter, an effort was made to concentrate on what Jolly taught his followers. In this chapter, an attempt is made to look behind the bluster and pompous talk to examine what type of person had grown into the role of church leader.
Although Jolly was wary of the occult, he adapted some rituals that were similar to those practiced by satanic cults. He cautioned against the use of Ouija boards and horoscopes, yet he placed significance on numbers and colors. He taught that the Bible used signs within the context of scripture to advise the reader. He said that when the reader saw numeral one (1) in the Bible it always referred to God. Numeral two (2) meant witness, numeral three (3) meant perfection, numeral six (6) represented man, numeral seven (7) reflected perfection or completeness, and numeral twelve (12) represented the tribes of Israel and Jesus’ disciples and was a special number to God. Colorwise, blue represented Jesus, purple represented God and red represented the devil. This was the reason Jolly didn’t want any of the females in his churches wearing red.
As alluded earlier, Jolly was obsessed with statistics. Church secretaries were required to count everything. This included the number of hours of worship and the number of hours he spoke. Records were kept on the amount of time spent in singing songs, praying, shouting and any other activity of which he could think. This was all meticulously recorded and put into the annual report. This report reflected the number of worship services, attendance, number of spiritual blessings, number of testimonies, number of songs used in the worship (along with a breakdown of those sung only by the choir and those sung by the total congregation) and songs sung by special groups or solo singers. Other statistics included water baptisms, Holy Ghost baptisms, births, deaths, weddings, baby dedications, etc. The one thing that most would expect to find in an annual report was never there. Jolly kept all financial records secret.
Occasionally, Jolly would post a financial report on the church premises somewhere to give the semblance that he was opening financial records for review. He invited members to read the report, however, it posed more questions than it did in providing answers. He told the membership that if anyone didn't understand the report, they could come to him personally for an explanation. Getting to him was comparable to running an obstacle course and those who did get to him to ask about church finances regretted it. He rebuked everyone who questioned his use of finances. Recipients of such scoldings learned that it was better to keep quiet than to ask a question.
Jolly devoted considerable amounts of time during the general meetings in Louisville giving meaningless statistics. He liked to have the members of the orchestra stand and hold their instruments above their heads for everyone to see. He would then give an estimate as to the dollar value of all the instruments combined. He delighted in telling the audience how many he had singing in his collective choir and playing in the orchestra. He would have the ushers count the number of cars in the parking lot so that he could give that figure to the audience, along with an estimate of their total value.
Meals were served in the specially built dining room for church members and guests. Jolly had to tell how many meals were served. This would be further broken down to the number of loaves of bread, the number of eggs, pounds of meat, cans of vegetables, etc. that were used in the preparation of the meals. Jolly kept a close eye on the kitchen and dining area because he didn't want anything wasted. The smallest of waste was considered to be extravagant by him. Even though all the helpers were volunteers, they would be severely criticized by him if he thought they were wasting food, soap, or other kitchen supplies. He demanded a full accounting of every item used. He once accused church members in a large meeting of stealing silverware from the dining hall. He never admitted to the fact that some of the silverware was inadvertently lost during trash removal. He pinpointed the suspected thieves as those who had brought campers to the meeting and parked on the church parking lot. He theorized that the members staying in campers were sneaking the silverware out of the dining room to use for meals in the campers instead of using the dining hall for their meals.
Taking the offering was a special ritual as well, during the general meeting in Louisville. Jolly sat with his eyes glued to his watch to time the ushers as they collected the offering. He bragged that the ushers in St. Louis could collect an offering in less than three minutes, so he timed the ushers at the general meeting to make sure they stayed within that time frame. He was psychotic about the safety of the offering. He was always afraid someone would steal it. He armed some of the ushering staff with sidearms to protect both the offering and Jolly himself.
On one occasion, an armed usher got happy and began dancing around. His loaded pistol became dislodged and fell onto the floor among hundreds of worshipers. Although this presented a dangerous situation, few viewed it as such. Jolly habitually armed some of the ushers in his church at St. Louis, so insiders grew to accept the idea of having loaded weapons in the meetings. One wonders if these ushers obtained permission to carry concealed weapons, in view of Jolly's resistance to governmental authority.
Jolly began a ritual at the general convention meeting whereby all the ministers with him in the lead made a special entry into the building. The large auditorium included a large balcony with steps leading down on each side to the main congregational area. Before each service, Jolly would gather all of his preachers, along with guest ministers, at the top of the steps. He would give the signal for the orchestra to play something appropriate for pomp and fanfare. The preachers would march down the steps through the auditorium and up to the rostrum in a single file with Jolly at the front. The procession would be greeted with "ohs" and "ahs" as the military-style parade took place. Jolly squeezed every ounce of reverence he could muster from each one of these events.
Jolly was carefully selective in choosing the men who would serve as ministers under his direction. Although many were highly intelligent men, few had any formal training. He did not approve of seminaries for the training, choosing to train men for the ministry himself. Some preachers came to him from other Pentecostal churches, but most were men who had been common laborers in such occupations as auto mechanic, service station attendant, sign painter, deliveryman, carpet layer, etc. Unlike William Sowders, who invited all Pentecostal preachers to join his confederation, Jolly excluded himself from the divisions of the sect. He believed that he had the truth and everyone had to change to conform to his doctrine. Men chosen for the ministry had to serve in an apprentice relationship to him for months and years in either St. Louis or Eldorado. No one was sent out until Jolly thought him ready.
Sometimes Jolly would get fooled by the men he selected. Some broke off from him and denounced him. Jolly would make sure that some type of retribution was made for such behavior. One of the hardest things for the preachers to do was to be moved from one church to another, without any prior warning that they were about to be moved. He rotated the men around from church to church in his role as bishop. Sometimes, the preacher would get ensconced in a community and flatly refuse to move. Jolly would not only cut the preacher off from fellowship, but he would also disown the congregation. He encouraged the members of a rogue church to move to one of the churches Jolly pastored. Jolly moved the preachers at his own whim, because they had become more popular with the congregation than he was. As pointed out earlier, Jolly admitted to moving his nephew from Eldorado for that reason. Preachers were kept in a constant state of anxiety wondering about how to please Jolly and how long they were going to be allowed to stay in a specific church. Some stayed only a few months, while others stayed for years. These were the ones who paid homage to him regularly and did not make waves by claiming the congregation for themselves.
An example of the type of an individual chosen to serve as one of Jolly's preachers is reflected in an incident related by the preacher himself at a general meeting in Eldorado. The preacher had been drafted into the military during the Korean conflict, which was prior to his ministry. He stated that he hated the army and prayed and prayed that a way would be made for him to get out of military service. He came up with a solution. He began speaking in tongues at times when others could hear him. His fellow soldiers couldn't understand what was happening, so the commander ordered this man to see a psychiatrist. The army psychiatrist also became an audience for the man's speaking in tongues, so the doctor ordered the man discharged as being unfit for military service. The preacher laughed and bragged that God had made a way for him to escape military service. Since Wayne was a veteran of the Korean conflict, the story was not amusing nor was it answering prayer, in his opinion. It was simply one man's trickery and exemplified the degree to which some will go to show their contempt for patriotism and personal integrity.
Jolly made each Gospel Assembly church provide a parsonage for its pastor. He did not think that preachers should own real property and most of the furnishings in the parsonage were property of the church. Jolly ruled over the parsonages as though they were his personal property. He only allowed one preacher to hold onto his real estate, after accepting a pastorate. There were some mitigating circumstances in that one instance to which only Jolly and the preacher were party. Jolly would not allow the preachers and their wives to have pets in the parsonages because he believed pets damaged property.
Strict rules were enforced in respect to the upkeep of the parsonages. Some preachers had children and Jolly was always concerned that the children would damage the property. Most of the preachers with families would have qualified for the federal food stamp program, had Jolly allowed it. These families scraped along the best they could. They often were dependent upon the charity of the members in the local assembly. Jolly believed that such poverty kept the preachers humble. The bottom line was that it was his method of maintaining power and control. Jolly fed his ego by controlling not only the preachers with him but also the total church membership. Everyone was so brainwashed that they thought Jolly's authoritarian rule was the way God wanted it. Few had the audacity to challenge this totalitarianism for fear of being cut off from God and the church.
No one ever knew what Jolly's income was, but he doled out meager salaries to each of the preachers under him as if it were coming from his own pocket. Most preachers' income was well below the national poverty level. He forbid preachers to discuss salary because he didn't want them comparing incomes. Each church did have to furnish an automobile for its pastor. If the pastor's wife had an independent income, she was expected to pay for the car. Preacher's wives could not be employed. They had to be available twenty- four hours a day to assist their husbands in any way they could in his ministry.
Although Jolly took in thousands and possibly millions of dollars in offerings and gifts, he spent very little of these monies on himself. He prided himself on being extremely parsimonious. His frugality was legend. He purchased all of his wardrobe from the Salvation Army thrift store. He was not ashamed to wear second- hand clothing. In fact, he was quite proud of it. He would parade around in his used clothing and ask church members to guess what he had to pay for it. It gave him great joy to announce that he had only paid fifty cents for an item he was wearing.
Jolly once wore a pair of shoes that had been given to him 20 years earlier. A minister who once served under Jolly died and his wife gave her deceased husband's clothing to Jolly. She thought he would find a church member in need who could use the clothing, but he kept it for himself. He wore the shoes which were at least three sizes too big for him to a Thursday night service in Eldorado. He had poked newspapers in the toes of the shoes so that they would stay on his feet. He held one foot aloft and asked everyone to observe the dead man's shoes he was wearing. He acted as though he was a paradigm of humility and meekness by wearing the shoes. The truth of the matter was that his tightfisted personality wouldn't part with enough money for a new pair.
He taught his followers to be frugal in their personal lives just as he was. He reasoned that they would have more to give to him and the church if they spent less outside of church. He cautioned that no one should pay the listed retail price for items. He made a game of bargaining with salespeople. Badgering salesclerks was his specialty. On the other hand, when he had something for sale, no one could be any more hard-nosed while dickering over a price.
When the congregation in Louisville was to be moved from its relatively new church on Smyrna Avenue to the new convention center site on Dixie Highway, Jolly assumed responsibility for disposing of the church property. He held out for more than two years trying to get his asking price. Of course, his price was more than the market price of the property. He had the sale of that property at the top of every prayer list in every one of his churches. He was determined he was going to sell it at his price, with or without God's help. The irony of it all was that he had the opportunity earlier, to sell the property on contract at high interest. The problem was that he wanted immediate cash. He forfeited thousands of dollars in interest because he was too stubborn to listen to reason.
Jolly would not allow the ushers or custodians to turn on the air conditioners until one hour before the church service. He wouldn't allow the kitchen area to be air conditioned because it generated too much heat and cooling it would be costly. The church building in Eldorado became excessively hot in the summer months of July and August. One hour of air conditioning before a service was insufficient to cool the sanctuary. As a result, the air conditioners ran full speed for five to six hours without shutting off. They frequently broke down, requiring extensive repairs. An air-conditioning engineer tried to tell Jolly that he was wasting money by running the system in that manner, because it consumed more electricity. He wouldn't pay any attention to the experts. He thought he knew more than they did and had to be saving money by running the air conditioners only during church services. He would not or could not admit to being wrong, even when proven so beyond a shadow of a doubt.
He followed the church staff around, turning off light switches to conserve electricity. He refused to replace worn-out equipment with new ones, choosing to have them repaired, instead. He often spent more on repairs than a new item would cost. For instance, the carpet in the Eldorado church had been in the sanctuary for more than 20 years. It was a cheap grade of carpet to begin with and had been worn out long ago. Wayne and Mandel volunteered to clean the church on a weekly basis and the cleaning of that old, ragged carpet was a major chore. The carpet originally had a rubber backing that was glued to a cement floor. In numerous spots throughout the church, the carpet had worn away and the black rubber was exposed.
When Wayne ran the sweeper in these areas, it gathered up the loose strings from the rotten carpet. The vacuum sweeper clogged with the strings from the carpet and stalled. He would then have to cut away the strings wound up in the roller and start over again. This was frustrating when it occurred repeatedly. As a result, the sweepers wore out much faster than they should. All the cleaning staff begged Jolly to purchase new carpet and new sweepers and he always refused. Once or twice he brought in used sweepers from other churches for the cleaning staff to use, but he never relented to buy new carpet. He claimed the old carpet was still in good shape and should serve for several more years.
It grieved Wayne and Mandel to give tithes and offerings to the church and yet have no voice in how those monies were spent. All of the frugality was unnecessary because the Eldorado Gospel Assembly church had more than $3,000,000 invested in various accounts. Jolly was never satisfied with the amount of money given and accumulated. He claimed that the Lord showed him years ago to teach the people to give with tithes, offerings and pledges. He preached numerous sermons on giving. He often referred to the fact that he was given advice by an older minister who had warned that the one mistake he had made in his ministry was not teaching his followers to give until it hurt. Jolly would never make that mistake.
Some of the church personnel surmised that Jolly was skimming the offerings in Eldorado. They suspected that he took what he wanted off the top before having the church personnel count the offerings and enter the amounts into the church records. In addition to these monies, Jolly collected huge sums in gifts for his birthday, at Christmas and on Father's Day. The cash gifts were placed in greeting cards and given to the ushers, who then placed them in a large box to be gift wrapped and presented to Jolly during a church service. It cannot be estimated as to how much Jolly received in this manner over the more than fifty years he was in the ministry. The four large churches in Eldorado, St. Louis, Louisville and Indianapolis that he directly supervised all participated in the gift giving. Income tax records may or may not reflect the extent of such gifts. It is improbable.
Wayne participated in giving Jolly money gifts for Christmas and for his birthday, but he balked at giving the preacher money for Father's Day. This seemed like renouncing one's own father by honoring Jolly with a gift on Father's Day. He claimed he was entitled to Father's Day gifts because he considered himself to be a father in the Lord to all the church members. All the preachers who looked to Jolly for direction referred to him as their "father in the Lord." Wayne knew that he had only one natural father and one heavenly father, and he was not about to give that honor to Jolly in either instance.
Jolly was provided free living quarters and utilities in all the churches he supervised. His churches provided him with an automobile and during his later years he was provided with a chauffeur. He wore second-hand clothing and he received free haircuts from some of the preachers who were barbers. He had no visible expenses, so he accumulated money for the love of money and not for what it would buy.
In spite of being what was unquestionably one of the world's greatest misers, he was also very vain. When his hair turned grey, he dyed it a reddish brown. It looked strange to see a man in his 70's with no grey hair mixed in with his dark hair. He thought he was fooling the church members into believing the color was natural and yet, they all knew what he was doing. Whether he applied the dye himself or had one of the helpers do it, the dye job looked very amateurish.
Jolly had a fetish for dark hair. He admired women with jet black hair and blanched white skin. The women who influenced him to some degree maintained such an appearance. Jolly used them as examples which he wanted the other women to imitate. Wayne and Mandel were uncomfortable around such women with their fake appearance. One in particular frowned witch-like and another smiled and winked inappropriately. Many women dyed their hair black, thinking that this would make them look young and attractive to Jolly.
Jolly held himself out to be an expert in many fields, in addition to being a self-proclaimed Bible expert. His only full-time job other than preaching was as an auto mechanic in his late teens and early twenties. He told anyone within hearing distance that he had been the best auto mechanic in Granite City, Illinois. He bragged that he had become a master mechanic before the age of 21. He continued to relate how mechanics from all over the area came to him for advice on how to fix a difficult auto problem. He thought he could repair any car manufactured in the United States or overseas. Even in his seventies, he still boasted that he could fix any car, in spite of the fact that he hadn't worked on one in more than 40 years. In the present age, the highly sophisticated electronic systems in automobiles would have been perplexing to him. He couldn't admit that his skills were outdated.
He admired the Rolls Royce automobile and talked incessantly about owning one. The only reason he didn't own one was because he was too stingy to buy one and none of his followers could afford to buy him one. He really envied the television evangelists who took in millions of dollars. He especially envied the fact that they could drive a Rolls Royce. He criticized the likes of Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Baker, but always rationalized his admiration of them by saying that what he lacked in quantity, he made up in quality. He couldn't resist chiding the congregation in Eldorado that they were so "back-woodsy" that a Rolls Royce couldn't even be purchased in the town. Wayne and Mandel talked about the fact that they would have liked to have presented Brother Jolly with a Rolls Royce, if they had the money. It didn't take long for them to realize the foolishness of that discussion, after learning about the real Thomas Jolly, rather than the fake ideal they had imagined him to be. Jolly's quirks were very foreign to the teachings of Christ and the Bible.
His fascination with automobiles carried over from the mechanical side to fast driving. He continually exceeded the speed limit when he was able to drive and insisted that the chauffeur do it, too. A better term would be driver rather than chauffeur because the man who drove Jolly around never received pay for that service. One of his drivers from St. Louis complained about Jolly's insistence on driving "way over the speed limit" and his tendency to pass other cars on curves and in other no passing zones. The driver reported that he often held his breath while rounding a curve or passing on a hill, all the while praying that the road would be clear ahead.
At one point, this particular driver had received so many speeding tickets in Illinois while driving for Jolly that he was going to lose his driver's license. Jolly told him that Wayne had worked for the government and he could get the driving record cleared up so that the man wouldn't lose his license. When he came to Wayne, he requested that his most recent ticket be withdrawn or fixed by the authorities. Wayne told him in no uncertain tones that he didn't approve of such a thing and that when he broke the law he could expect to pay the penalty. Jolly's driver never spoke to Wayne again about the matter or anything else. This driver was soon replaced by another driver who agreed to comply with Jolly's hazardous driving methods.
Jolly advised church members about the type of car they should purchase and where to buy it. He once told an elderly couple that their newly purchased, twelve-year-old Lincoln Town Car would last "till Jesus comes." Church members proudly paraded their newly purchased cars in front of Jolly when he arrived in Eldorado. Jolly would look each car over like a quality control inspector and point out the car's good points and its bad points. He was especially proud of the new cars purchased by church members. He wanted these parked in the front of the parking lot to impress members of the community. He liked Lincolns and Cadillacs and wanted these parked near the street for all to see how prosperous his church members were. Jolly insisted that all pickup trucks and older model cars be parked in the rear so that they couldn't be seen from the street. He fussed at the ushers if an older model car or truck happened to slip into a parking space near the street.
As indicated earlier, he made a game out of trying to figure out how much value of all cars on the parking lot would total. The ushers counted the cars every service in order to give that report to Jolly. He liked to say that automobiles on the parking lot were important testimonies to the public that extolled the success and wealth of the members of the church.
Wayne was filled with consternation when told that he should consult Jolly before purchasing a car. He drew the line and advised the informer that he would make his own car selections. Wayne couldn't understand how members could rely on Jolly's judgment for car purchases, with it being more reliable than their own. Some church members consulted Jolly before any major purchase. He gave advice on the purchase of homes, appliances, furniture and dozens of other items. Although he had no expertise in such matters, the members believed that Jolly had direct communication with God and his advice had to be correct.
Infrequently, Jolly would tell someone that he would have to pray about a matter. This would buy him time to consult an expert or consult with someone who had knowledge about a particular matter. Most of the time, Jolly gave advice immediately, preferring to shoot from the hip on all subjects. There were probably times that Jolly did pray about such matters, but it was more likely that he was praying to be right rather than praying for God's direction. Members often made large purchases after consulting with Jolly and getting his approval.
Prior to a church service, Wayne was approached by a young man who asked Wayne for advice about starting a business in Eldorado. The type of business the man was planning to start was very risky, at best, and Wayne told him so. The young man then told him that Jolly had advised him to go ahead with it, so he thought he would. Within a few short months, the young man declared bankruptcy and closed the business. Jolly blamed the man for having a lack of business acumen instead of taking the blame for giving him bad advice.
Jolly envisioned himself as an expert counselor. He counseled members on every problem brought to him. He told the congregation (from his pulpit) that they should not waste their money on professional counselors, but should come to him instead for free advice. He advised the people on every social, psychiatric, family and spiritual problem imaginable. He claimed to have saved marriages, prevented suicides, healed damaged emotions and settled financial difficulties. According to Jolly, his success rate was phenomenal. The truth is that there is no telling how many divorces for which he was responsible or how many persons were scarred for life by following his counsel. Wayne has noted some of the results of Jolly's advisement and it is both frightening and disheartening.
Jolly's personal relationships were designed to empower him at the expense of the individual. He encouraged persons who came to him with a complaint about someone to tell all the sordid details. He not only went to the other person and told them the story, but would spread the story among the members of the congregation. He could not or would not hold anything confidential. Many of the preachers who followed Jolly were guilty of the same practice. It was a common practice for a member to hear his personal woes related from the pulpit, which had been given in confidence to Jolly. If the individual went to Jolly and complained, his usual reply was that he was referring to someone else other than the one who thought his confidence had been betrayed. His explanation was always the same. He said that it was necessary for him to deal with church problems in general and that he never directed his comments to a single person. Jolly was a veritable coward who could not deal with a problem one on one. He liked to get individuals in a large congregation and single them out. In this manner, there was no way that the victim could counteract or disagree with what was being told from the pulpit. The audience always supported Jolly and he knew that he was invested to say whatever he wanted to from his rostrum.
When people displeased Jolly, he resorted to rebuking them. He used the Bible to disseminate this evil practice. His scripture for reference was I Timothy 5:20, "Those who are sinning, rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear." Other scriptures used in support of that practice were found in II Timothy 4:2, "Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching," Titus 2:15, "Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority." Victims of these rebukes had every reason to fear. Jolly was ruthless in the pursuit of retribution and chastisement.
He could turn friend against friend, wife against husband, brother against brother, and child against parent. Although Jolly was small in stature, he could make 300-pound men grovel at his feet. Wayne has seen intelligent and successful businessmen cowering and begging for Jolly's forgiveness because they had said or done something that displeased the preacher. Jolly repeatedly exploited this power over others to his own advantage.
He once severely reprimanded the pianist because she had chosen a song that he did not like. Wayne wrote Jolly a letter asking for an explanation of that act. Jolly refused to answer directly, although he had plenty to say about the letter from the pulpit, filling his comments with poisonous darts of reprimand. Wayne had stated in the letter that the apostle Paul stated in scripture that rebuke was only to be used for those who sin and not for those who make simple mistakes. The pianist was talented and completely loyal to Jolly, but this made no difference to him. Jolly made the woman so nervous that she would literally shake with fear. If the pianist couldn't be trusted to pick an appropriate song from the Gospel Assembly songbook, how could anyone else hope to please Jolly? After all, the songs in the book were ones selected by Jolly and his staff that lauded church doctrine.
Wayne was deeply embarrassed and ashamed of the way different church members were rebuked. He took each rebuke personally. Rebukes came for little simple things that had no bearing on Christian lifestyle. Wayne often challenged God for an answer to explain such behavior from church leaders. The answer came after more than ten years of association with the Gospel Assembly church in Eldorado, however, he was never able to reconcile the church leader's inhumanity to fellow Christians on the pretext of adherence to the Bible.
Jolly was especially severe in his reproachfulness of the young man who served as orchestra leader and choir director. Jolly held the young man in abstract poverty and servitude for years. At one time, the young man had established a romantic interest in one of the young women of the church. Jolly was afraid that the man would neglect his church duties if he married the young lady, so Jolly broke up the relationship. The orchestra leader was not allowed to seek employment outside his church responsibilities because Jolly wanted him to devote full time to the music department. He was sent out from his home in Eldorado to all the other 25 Gospel Assembly churches in order to teach the music that Jolly wanted.
The young man was not given a regular salary and was dependent upon whatever Jolly felt like giving him from the church account. It averaged from $15.00 to $20.00 per week, depending upon Jolly's caprice. The man could not afford to have his own apartment and he was dependent upon his parents for room and board. He had no means of transportation and he had to mooch rides to his assignments to churches outside Eldorado. In spite of the man's allegiance to Jolly and the church, he was ridiculed relentlessly. Although he was an excellent and well-educated musician, nothing was ever good enough for Jolly. The church leader demanded perfection and he was the one who defined perfection.
Even when an errant sound was made by a saxophonist or clarinetist, such as in the case of amateur musicians, the band leader got the blame. Males and females of all ages played in the band and it was impossible to eliminate an occasional sour note. Jolly expected perfect music in spite of any circumstance to the contrary. He often stopped songs while they were being played or sung to deride the music leader and the pianist. When Jolly was able to specifically identify a recalcitrant musician or imperfectionist, he upbraided both the guilty party and the music leader.
The ushering staff came in for their share of Jolly's barbs as well. They were to watch Jolly for any sign of displeasure or discomfort. Jolly criticized the ushers when the building became too hot or too cold. He blamed them for improper seating of the congregation. He wanted everyone seated as near the front of the church as possible so that he could keep an eye on worshipers. Often, he would refuse to start a church service until all the people moved forward to fill the front rows. Most members chose a favorite seat in the sanctuary without help from the ushers. When there were open pews or gaps between the worshipers, the ushers received the blame. On such occasions, he would launch into a tirade about how he wished he could get some ushers smart enough to seat the people.
Most worshipers reluctantly moved forward when told to do so, although some held back. When this happened, the guilty party was subject to harassment. Jolly didn't want to see any empty seats directly in front of him. He started the reseating process by naming and calling out individuals whom he thought were seated too far back. Few people appreciated being personally identified as being contrary, so the crowd moved forward to avoid public ridicule. If Jolly thought someone was openly defying him, it was an invitation for unrestricted abuse.
The sound equipment personnel were a target of Jolly's belittling as well. Periodically, the amplifiers distorted the sound or made loud cracking noises due to unknown causes. Jolly would not accept any explanation as to the cause because he automatically assumed the technician was at fault. In his judgment, any electronic distortion or malfunction was the direct failure of the sound personnel to do their job correctly. He censured these men often. Most of the time, they just meekly accepted their scolding and went on with their work. Jolly never apologized for his behavior.
Jolly had a fearsome temper. Anyone who had been a recipient of his angry outbursts would do anything possible to avoid a second occurrence. He once became so angry at a general meeting in Louisville that he left the church service and did not return. He had overheard someone criticize the woman he had put in charge of the convention music. The woman had become angry earlier and left the meeting to return to her home in St. Louis. Jolly took any criticism of his appointed leaders to be directed at him. He questioned dozens of people trying to find out why the lady had left, and when he failed to get satisfactory answers, he left as well.
Jolly tried to cover up his anger by accusing others of wrong doing. He told the church members that their bad attitude caused God's spirit to absent itself from the church services. A bad attitude was any position in conflict with what he wanted. When there was no inspiration or spiritual uplift from the music, it was because the congregation had a bad attitude. Dozens of times, he stopped the music in the middle of a song to tell the congregation they weren't singing it correctly. He reproved the audience to interpret the song as it was being sung. No one ever figured out what he meant by interpreting a song. The songs were all self-explanatory and required no interpretation. Wayne concluded that Jolly's interruption of a song service gave him a sense of mastery and power over the people.
Jolly encouraged the church members to shun family members who did not belong to Gospel Assembly. Family gatherings and reunions were avoided if they occurred during church services. That meant that any family social event scheduled on Sundays or any night when a church service was scheduled could not be attended by church members. A church member once bragged about his treatment of a family member who had driven a considerable distance to see him. He told the story in a testimony to indicate how faithful he had been to Jolly's orders. The out-of-state visitor had arrived at the home without advance notice, and he was unaware of the fact that it was a church night. The church member simply left his house guest and went to church. When he returned home much later that night, he found his house guest had left. The church member was so proud that he had gone to church and abandoned a family member that he just had to tell everyone about it.
Attending church regularly with perfect attendance was and is worn like a badge of honor. Members attended church, regardless of their physical condition. Many sat through church services with high temperatures and suffered pain and discomfort just to keep attendance records intact. It was aggravating to be exposed to colds and influenza at church simply because members were afraid to miss. Jolly told them that when they missed a church service, it was highly possible that they would miss a sermon or a testimony that would be the key for them to make it to heaven. He instilled a fear that overcame any personal discomfort associated with attendance.
Members were required to get Jolly's approval to miss church for vacation trips. Vacations could only be planned in such a way that the member could attend another Gospel Assembly church in the location in which he was vacationing. Jolly had to hear the vacation plans and approve the trip before any scheduling could be done. If, for some reason, he did not want the particular member to be absent from the local church, vacation plans had to be canceled or postponed to a later date. The vacation itinerary was carefully checked by Jolly to make sure the person didn't include a site or location of which he disapproved. If the church member got brave enough to defy Jolly's orders after the vacation began, he could usually count on one of Jolly's informants to report the incident.
Wayne and Mandel visited other Gospel Assembly churches during their vacations in compliance with Jolly's direction, but never asked permission beforehand like most of the other members did. For a certainty, Jolly received reports on their behavior from the preachers in the other churches. Wayne had little reason to regret visiting the other Gospel Assembly churches, although he did regret the fact that he had practically abandoned some of his family who were not church members.
Wayne's youngest brother has three sons and they all played football on the DuQuoin high school team. None of that family attended Gospel Assembly church so Wayne had very little contact with his brother and his family. The boys played football against Eldorado High School, a short drive from Wayne's home, and yet he would not go see them play. He is ashamed to admit that he followed the direction of Jolly in ignoring his brother's family, and yet, it is a truth that can't be denied. The number of families who became permanently alienated is considerable and forever will remain a legacy of Jolly's clout.
As stated, Jolly had numerous informants. When one of the informants went to him with a report, that was the version Jolly believed, regardless of proof to the contrary. Other witnesses and facts were ignored. No one could change his mind, once he settled on an issue. The first person reporting an incident to Jolly knew that his version would be the one accepted. The next step was for Jolly to chastise the one he deemed guilty. This nearly always was done from the pulpit. The one who did the tattling would bask in a glow of self-righteousness while his brother or sister was getting scorched. This created an environment of suspicion and distrust among members and served to make Jolly even more powerful. It reinforced Jolly's dominance over the congregation in a system of divide and conquer.
Jolly's spying on members reached outrageous and unlawful proportions. After he had resigned his church leadership, the trustees in the church at St. Louis found numerous hidden microphones throughout the church building. Some were found in both the men's and women's restrooms. These were wired to a listening device that was found in Jolly's living quarters. From these hidden microphones, Jolly could ascertain who was for him and who was against him. He often told both his church congregations in Eldorado and St. Louis that they could hide nothing from him. No one would have guessed that he kept informed with an elaborate bugging system.
A minister confided to Wayne that Jolly had listened in on him and his wife's conversation while they were guests in the St. Louis church. A few years earlier, this particular minister had become very ill and was unable to serve as a pastor for several months. Jolly invited the man and his wife to live in guest rooms at the St. Louis church complex. This minister stated that for many months he could not understand how Jolly could practically read his mind on matters that only he and his wife had discussed. They eventually discovered a hidden microphone in their bedroom. Jolly had been listening to their most intimate moments when they thought they were in the privacy of their bedroom. This illustrates the illegal lengths that Jolly went to in order to further his status as leader.
In spite of the fact that the minister discovered a hidden microphone, he continued to serve Jolly faithfully for many years thereafter. It demonstrates the vicious hold that Jolly maintained over those who followed him. The minister and his wife continued as if nothing had happened out of the ordinary. Their personal humiliation, outrage and hurt were concealed for the furtherance of Jolly's mission.
Jolly was so suspicious of his members that he would allow only one individual from each congregation to serve as trustee for the church property. That individual was carefully screened to make sure he was totally supportive of Jolly. The land trust for each church was organized in such a way that the local minister served as chairman of the board of trustees. That could change at any time, depending upon Jolly's mood. Every trust included a clause that stated Thomas M. Jolly was to be the overseer, advisor and chairman of the board, regardless of any other name appearing on the trust. If a local minister was perceived as being recalcitrant by Jolly, he could be removed immediately. This allowed Jolly to assume chairmanship in a matter of minutes.
Trust deeds were filed by law in the local governmental system. The trust contained the name of the local preacher, along with the name of one church member, and from one to three preachers from other Gospel Assembly churches. No women were ever allowed to serve as trustees. When Jolly decided to make a change in the personnel on the trust, he simply told the congregation who was to be added or subtracted from the trust. He made a statement to the effect that he knew the congregation was in agreement with his choices and it wouldn't be necessary for them to vote on the matter. No one ever objected.
The first time Wayne was a witness to that procedure, he was caught off guard by it. His conscience kept telling him that it was all wrong, however, he didn't know how to go about challenging it. Jolly went through a similar charade each time he decided that a change was needed in the trust. He merely added a brief statement, along with the trust, saying that the members of the congregation had all been in agreement and voted accordingly. It was all a clever means that Jolly used to circumvent the legal procedures established for such matters. Jolly consulted an attorney to oversee the language in the trust, yet no one was allowed to make the final approval except himself.
Every Thursday, Jolly arrived at the church in Eldorado from his home in St. Louis in the early afternoon. This was in anticipation of the gathering of surrounding area Gospel Assembly congregations on Thursday night. There were always several church members in and around the building on those days, preparing the church and the grounds for the expected crowd and also a large crew in the kitchen and dining room to prepare the meal. These workers noticed that selected individuals were invited to Jolly's living quarters. Jolly's arrival for dinner was determined by the departure of Jolly's guest from his room.
Many of the workers discreetly joked around about the fact that when Jolly's guest was a woman, they speculated about the purpose of the visit. Curiosity got the better of someone, who then asked the women what they were doing in there all that time. One was reported to have explained she was sewing on buttons and mending Jolly's clothing during the three hour period. The questionable aspect of the two being together all that time was the fact that they were not to be disturbed. No one, including ministers, could confer with Jolly during that private time.
In an unguarded moment when Jolly had opened his door to call to someone, a woman was overheard calling him Tom. Only a select few outside Jolly's family ever called him Tom, so this was indicative of a personal relationship. After Jolly had resigned the leadership, a minister confided to a small group of men (which included Wayne) that he had seen Jolly and a woman enter a bathroom together. According to the preacher, the two of them remained together in the bathroom for over an hour. He had no idea what the two of them were doing in the bathroom, yet the act itself suggested something clandestine.
All the behavior was just accepted as Jolly's idiosyncrasy. Over time, it became the norm. Jolly was powerful enough and clever enough to convince the members that his behavior was approved by God. In observing the overall situation, it was easy to deduce that certain persons were extended special favors by Jolly.
Jolly conducted what he called ministers' monthly meetings in various cities where Gospel Assembly churches were located. These were similar to the ones which William Sowders conducted years earlier and which were called "Schools of the Prophets." The meetings included all the preachers from each Jolly- supervised Gospel Assembly church. Traditionally, two of these ministers' meetings were held in Eldorado, one during the first week of November and the second during the first week of January each year. The November meeting immediately followed the annual anniversary service. The January meeting was used to kick off church plans for the coming year.
Jolly regularly used the meetings to showcase his teaching talent and administrative skills. The 25 ministers he supervised was not a sufficient audience with which to waste his time, so he invited local church laymen to attend, along with those from other churches who had shown some interest in entering the ministry. Wayne accepted the invitation and attended several of the ministers' meetings held in Eldorado. It was from attendance at these sessions that Wayne began to get his eyes opened to the cult-like nature of the Gospel Assembly church and its leadership.
None of the spectators was allowed to speak or ask questions. The laymen performed menial tasks for the ministers and listened and watched the proceedings. Sumptuous meals were served three times a day, with snacks in-between. The meals were elaborately prepared and elegantly served to the preachers in their own dining room by women from the church. The laymen who were spectators were allowed to eat in the large dining hall away from the preachers. The meeting and the food orgy continued for three days. Wayne partook of several of the delicious meals and continued to eat every time meals were served, in spite of the fact that he was stuffed from the first meal.
On some occasions, Wayne served as an usher in the preachers' dining room. He was able to observe firsthand how preachers were catered by the servers. Preachers' wives then joined them in the special dining room for the evening meal. Some preachers and some wives were very demanding and complained about little things such as water spots on the glassware. Some preachers wouldn't eat certain types of food and had to be served something they liked. One preacher even had a certain type of ice cream brought in for his personal use because he didn't like what the church served.
Jolly's teaching sessions were very revealing concerning his own character and the character of the men who served him as ministers. It was evident from the start that his claim about receiving everything through revelation from God was totally false. In fact, most of what he preached was received from his own ministers. Many of them were studied and accomplished Bible scholars. One of the ministers would start off a session by asking Jolly a question. His first response to the question was to ask the preacher what he thought the answer was. Rarely did he give an immediate response with an answer. If Jolly didn't know the answer, which was common, he started a long discourse on an unrelated subject to get everyone's mind confused and off the question at hand. After a day or two to mull over a preacher's answer to his own question, Jolly would adopt the response as his own revelation from God.
In Jolly's latter years, he tended to reminisce about the old days in every teaching session. He liked to boast about his relationship with William Sowders. He wasted hour after hour telling stories which he had repeated hundreds of times. Some of the stories were humorous when they were first related several years ago, but most had long ago lost their humor because of repetition. The most amusing part to Wayne was watching the preachers react to the stories. Although they knew the stories word for word, they always roared with laughter at the punch lines. They were programmed to react for Jolly's benefit even when it was obvious that there was not an ounce of spontaneity in their actions.
As Wayne observed Jolly, he began to question whether he ever actually had an anointing from God. His cruelty, his lack of human compassion, his lack of knowledge, his lack of Christian spirituality and his lack of real leadership ability raised some serious questions in Wayne's mind. His favorite subject, when he wasn't reminiscing, was sex. Although never married, he purported to have this vast knowledge of sexual functioning. He believed that married couples engage in some type of sexual activity on a continuous basis and that is all that occupies their minds. He was so concerned about it that he announced from the pulpit at the annual convention in Louisville that there were to be no sexual relations on the grounds during the course of the three-day meeting. He believed that the spirit of God is inhibited by human intercourse.
He wouldn't allow newly wedded couples to participate in church functions such as the orchestra, choir, or Sunday school teacher until they had been married for at least six months. He stated that newlyweds were so involved in sexual intercourse that they could not adequately serve the church until their ardor had waned.
In the ministers' meetings with only males present, Jolly became embarrassingly explicit in describing sexual terminology. He discussed things like oral and anal sex as though they were accepted sexual mores. He related personal accounts of counseling sessions he had with dysfunctional married couples and often revealed intimate details of marriage sexual problems. He insisted that couples stay in abusive relationships to avoid divorce. It was Jolly's belief that the Bible gave the man a right to claim a wife as his personal property and she should endure any abuse meted out by the husband. He insisted that women should submit to any sexual act the husband desired, regardless of the depravity of it.
Jolly cautioned the men that their wives needed to have their sexual needs met in order to keep them from straying from the marriage. He told the married ministers to satisfy their wives' sexual needs whenever the women expressed a need for same. Jolly seemed to enjoy a certain devious thrill out of discussing such matters, and especially so when talking about deviant sexual practices. Jolly made no attempt to hide his personal feelings about such matters. He insisted that couples bring all types of problems to him since he envisioned himself as the master problem solver. When church members complied and took their problems to him, they actually served to feed his corrupt fantasies.
Jolly had hard and fast rules about marriage. He insisted that couples must have received the Holy Ghost prior to marriage. With limited marriage partners in the church, it was not unusual to see a boy or girl become interested in someone outside Gospel Assembly. Young boys and girls have been literally dragged to the altar to comply with the rules. Nonmembers were puzzled by much of the church protocol. Unmarried couples were not allowed to sit together in church and most entertainment and social functions designed for young people were off-limits. Often, couples married without ever knowing much about each other, either from a social standpoint or on a personal basis. With so little contact, it was not surprising to see men and women who were unhappy in their marriage.
Jolly's fascination with sex was perplexing to Wayne. He was troubled enough by the comments made in the ministers' meetings that he confided to Mandel he questioned Jolly's interest in the subject. Jolly tried to conceal his personal obsession by referring to the Bible. He told the church members that the original sin in the Garden of Eden involved Eve and Satan having intercourse. He further stated that since Eve had committed adultery with the devil, she caused Adam to have an adulterous relationship with her. Jolly liked to remind the women that Eve was the one who was deceived and not Adam. He used that as the basis for his outspoken degradation of women from the pulpit. He crowed that Adam was just a victim of circumstance and women were the cause of men's problems.
At other times in the ministers' meetings, Jolly would switch from sexual discussions or reminiscences into trivial discussions of simple things from the Bible. In one meeting, Jolly and the preachers wasted three days trying to decide whether Jesus spent one, two, or three days in the grave. In another meeting, a wrangling discussion haggled over the placement of a comma in a certain passage of the Bible.
Wayne once completed a study of the scriptures on the soul, the spirit, and the conscience. Several questions were drawn up in a typewritten format to be presented to Jolly. Wayne had to con a minister into forwarding the questions because laymen were not allowed to pose questions in the ministers' meetings. Surprisingly, Jolly thought the questions were good ones. He found out that Wayne had compiled them and publicly congratulated him on his intelligent questions. He used the occasion to upbraid the preachers because they couldn't come up with such knowledgeable questions. Wayne soon realized he was being used as a pawn to goad the preachers into studying more. Jolly acted as though he was going to address the ques tions and then drifted off into some meaningless drivel that was totally unrelated to the subject. Wayne was not fooled by Jolly's actions, but some in the audience were. One man was heard to say that it was absolutely brilliant the way Jolly expounded on all those questions.
Jolly was at the height of his glory when he chaired the ministers' meetings. He was especially demonstrative during the meeting held in January 1991. The Gulf War had just begun and Iraq was being bombed mercilessly by the United States and its allies. Jolly reared back in his specially provided rocking chair and looked out over the preachers and the laymen in the audience and announced, "We're bombing the daylights out of them." He acted as though he had a personal hand in the war maneuvers. Though trapped in a diminutive body, his ego exploded with power and force when it had the opportunity.
The ministers' wives had their own meetings while their husbands were involved with Jolly. Jolly appointed certain women whom he thought he could trust, to instruct the women. They gave classes in all sorts of subjects with a heavy emphasis on "how to be a good wife." It became the custom for the women to join the ministers' meeting during the last hours of the ending day. Jolly would signal the ushers to bring in the women when he was ready. An usher would lead the women in single file and direct them to seating in one section at the back of the meeting room. While they were quietly taking their seats, Jolly would once again rear back in his swivel rocker and announce that the women had arrived.
Jolly would try to switch to a subject that would be of interest to the wives. He tried very hard to impress them in ways that were obviously flirtatious and flattering. He wanted his meetings to end on a high note, and he knew if the wives were going home happy, chances were that their husbands would be, too. His actions reminded Wayne of a small rooster strutting around a chicken lot filled with admiring hens. The ministers' wives were never allowed to speak or pose questions unless directed by Jolly and, as a rule, they appeared dour and uncomfortable in the meetings.
Jolly singled out some ministers for ridicule in the meetings so that he could get the others to cower into submission. There was one on whom he picked more than the others. He considered the minister to be incompetent, but it probably had more to do with the preacher refusing to abide by all the rules Jolly set for him. After several years of bickering, Jolly decided to kick the man out of the ministry altogether. He sent another preacher to tell the man that he was relieved of his pastorate. Jolly couldn't face him in person. The other preachers were told to avoid contact with him. All of this occurred after the man had served faithfully as a pastor for more than 25 years. It was typical of the way Jolly dealt with people who had shown loyalty to him.
The only way that a minister could please Jolly was to completely submit to his will. One minister served as a good example. He would step forward to the pulpit on Thursday nights when Jolly was present and begin to extol Jolly's virtues. He would turn and point to Jolly and tell the audience that he owed his ministry, his financial status, his spiritual status, and his social status to one man and that man was Thomas Jolly. He related that he used Jolly as his model and he tried to copy him in every way possible. Jolly reciprocated by bragging on that preacher. This was out-of-character for Jolly to brag on anyone, but it was obvious to everyone that he favored that one preacher and his wife. Jolly admonished the other preachers to follow that fine example.
One of Jolly's preachers had a fascinating background. He had grown up in New York with a career in the financial market. His career had been ruined by alcoholism and he eventually lost his employment, his home, and his family. Through Alcoholics Anonymous, the man had recovered sufficiently to begin a new life. He met an elderly couple who had introduced him to the concept of receiving the Holy Ghost. They prayed with him and he began speaking in tongues. They then invited him to accompany them to the Shepherdsville campground where Thomas Jolly was conducting a meeting. The man and Jolly immediately liked one another and he was invited to come to St. Louis to study under Jolly for the ministry. In a few months, the man was assigned to pastor one of Jolly's churches.
Not too long after his first assignment, he inherited a large sum of money. He wanted Jolly to share in his good fortune, so the two of them decided to take a tour of the world. They traveled for weeks in various countries around the world. When the two of them returned to their home churches, both men's egos had expanded considerably. Jolly already held the presumptuous idea that he was an expert in everything, but when he returned from his world tour, he wanted everyone else to know it as well. His braggadocio became even more pronounced than it had ever been. His protégée assumed the same attitude and mannerisms. The both of them regaled their audiences with tales of their experiences and always emphasized their superior intelligence in comparison to the stupidity of everyone else.
Another incident that exemplifies Jolly's egocentric personality and his miserliness happened when Wayne was a member of the cleaning crew in Eldorado. Individuals had reported being bitten by fleas in the choir and orchestral areas of the church. The cleaning crew discovered that the old carpet was infested with them. The resident pastor didn't want to call an exterminator because he knew Jolly would be upset about the fleas and he definitely wouldn't want to pay to have them exterminated. The local pastor was really in a dither. He didn't want Jolly to find out because he was afraid of what he might say and do. On the other hand, he knew that if the fleas weren't removed, the people in the community wouldn't attend church. The cleaning crew threatened to call the exterminator themselves and agreed to pay the cost. The pastor relented and called an exterminator. It is noteworthy that he was more concerned about Jolly's wrath than he was about the comfort of the church members. It is also indicative of the fear that Jolly instilled in those that served him.
Jolly allowed the congregation in St. Louis to periodically enjoy a meal in the church dining room. This was usually on special holidays, such as Christmas, Thanksgiving, or for his own birthday celebration. He would not permit the congregation in Eldorado to have meals in the church because he cited the cost of food, extra utilities, and extra cleaning supplies to clean up afterward to be too costly. After one Thursday night service in which he had bragged about the wonderful meal he had enjoyed at the church in St. Louis over the Thanksgiving holiday, one of the members in Eldorado asked him if the same could be done in that church. He emphatically denied the request. His refusal of the request was indicative of the power and control he maintained, as much as it was of his personal stinginess. One possible reason for approving the meals in St. Louis was that he was present for the members' accolades. He insisted on getting credit for every good thing and blaming others for everything that went wrong.
When Jolly decided that an unpleasant job or assignment was necessary, he delegated someone to do his dirty work. He relieved Sunday school teachers, cooks, choir members, band members, ushers and preachers through a delegate. When Wayne was given the job of Sunday school teacher, he found out to his dismay that the previous teacher had not been told of his removal. Wayne was supposed to tell him that he was being replaced. Wayne refused and it became the unpleasant task of the local pastor to deliver the fateful message. Jolly deviously planned discharges this way because he knew that someone else would get the blame for the replacement rather than himself. He couldn't even face the minister whom he had fired. He sent a preacher from another church to tell the man he no longer could serve as pastor under Jolly. For all his bluster and grandstanding, underneath, Jolly was too cowardly to accept the responsibility for his actions.
In some instances, certain individuals may have been extorted by Jolly. He knew secrets about the ministers he supervised because some of them had made mistakes that would have compromised their ability to serve as pastors. On the other hand, the preachers knew many secrets about Jolly, which he didn't want revealed. The sinful acts may have resulted in a standoff between the leader and his assistants. It was perhaps something similar to the playground game, "I won't tell, if you won't tell."
Jolly seemed to revel in controversy of his own making, especially when he thought that he wouldn't get burned in the process. He encouraged tattle tales, then he went to the accused one and told him what the other had said about him. He took great pleasure in watching such situations develop wherein the offended parties fought and blamed one another. Jolly stood blameless on the sidelines. There was no question that Jolly's eccentric behavior bordered on the psychotic.