OF BONDAGE - Chapter 7
By Wayne Hamburger
WAYNE AND MANDEL BECOME PRIVY TO REALITY OF GOSPEL ASSEMBLY CHURCH
Once they had settled into their new home, every aspect of their lives was directed toward the Gospel Assembly church. The role of the church in their lives can only be recounted through doctrine, rules, and church activities in which they participated. It is difficult to separate church doctrine from the leader of the Gospel Assembly church. T. M. Jolly was the church and the followers or members of the church were an extension of him. Wayne and Mandel were so immersed in the workings of the church that nothing else on earth mattered to them. Family and friends who were not associated with the church were pretty well ignored. With this introduction of their involvement, an analysis of the data follow to offer an explanation for their entanglement in the church. As stated, it is almost impossible to separate church and pastor, however, the following illustrates what attendance at Gospel Assembly was like.
Jolly did not like for members to leave church during the service for any reason. Church services conducted by Jolly were very tiring, to say the least. It was common for the church service to begin at 7:30 P.M. and continue until midnight and beyond. During Thursday night service, ministers and members of other Gospel Assembly congregations within a 200-mile radius would gather in to hear Jolly. Worshipers came from Evansville, Indiana; Louisville, Kentucky; Indianapolis, Indiana; DuQuoin, Illinois; Anna, Illinois; Dawson Springs, Kentucky and all points in between. These commuters were faced with the fact that they would return to their homes in the wee hours of the morning following a Thursday night church service. Many returned home on Friday morning with barely enough time to make it to their places of employment. Jolly gave no consideration to these types of hardships. He called them "minor inconveniences."
Jolly thoroughly enjoyed talking to an audience. He referred to it as teaching his flock. Often he would rise to speak at the start of a service and continue for five hours without stopping. He would never close a service without taking an offering. This meant that the choir and orchestra had to furnish music while the offering plates were being passed. If anyone had the courage to leave the service while Jolly was talking, they were subject to ridicule. He would interrupt his message and tell the people that were leaving to be sure and drop their offering into the collection plate before they exited the building. Needless to say, very few ventured to leave early, knowing that they would be made a public spectacle by doing so.
Jolly demanded everyone's full attention. If he chanced to notice that someone had gone to sleep or was otherwise not giving him full attention, he would identify the culprit from the pulpit. Misbehaving children were singled out for a full-blown denunciation. One of his favorite tactics was to yell out really loud with a "Hello! Are you listening?" He would follow this up with a warning that those who weren't paying attention were missing the very words that God intended them to have in order to make it to heaven. He convinced his followers that he and only he was God's representative for this period of history. He and only he had the full truth concerning the Bible, according to his message. After speaking for hours on dozens of different subjects, he would return to his seat and demand those visiting preachers rise up and expound on what they had heard. They understood that this was an invitation to be supportive of his message. They were also expected to brag on Jolly as to what a great teacher and leader he was. Regardless of the late hour or the number of preachers present, everyone indulged Jolly in that ritual.
Jolly had to be reassured each time that his instructions were being well received by the preachers who were following him. As each preacher rose to speak, he would repeat Jolly's name over and over again as if he were paying tribute to some type of deity. The braggadocio was symbolic of the men with whom Jolly surrounded himself. He had to restrict that group to a band of sycophants whom he could control without fear of rebellion from them. A few were brave enough to escape from his diabolic influence and leave, but those who did were targets of his wrath and vengeance.
Women were particularly oppressed by both Jolly and the other ministers who catered to him. The women were told often that they were inferior to men. Jolly went so far as to tell the women that if they were fortunate enough to make it to heaven, they would become males. He kept reminding them that there are no females in heaven, and according to him, never will be. He liked to look out over his congregation and tell the women to cheer up because someday they would be men. Women were constantly being told "what to do" and "what not to do." They were instructed to never give advice or instructions to others in the church. Women were told that they could testify only after the men had led out in that activity. Their testimonies could not include a mention of other churches, marriage, virginity, widowhood, or ailments. They could not claim to have received any type of revelation because all of their knowledge had to come from men. Their conversation or talks could not include words such as fornication, adultery, devil, hell, backslide, bedroom, bathroom, sin, dressing and undressing.
Women were told that they could be neither first nor last to give testimony during a church service. The first part of that requirement could be easily followed, but the last part was tricky when the men became recalcitrant in testifying. Women could not talk about anything bad in church. They were never to brag on another minister in the presence of their own minister. They were to never leave the impression with anyone that they knew more than their husband or minister. Women were warned, if weeping occurred in church, to make sure it was the Spirit of God that made them cry and not pre-menstrual syndrome or some feminine emotion.
Jolly taught that women must have control over what he called their naturally aggressive, forward, and suggestive spirit. His assumption was that all women possessed this trait. He taught that the woman's role was to study the Bible and pick out beautiful scriptures and lovely writings of poetry and other light reading so that these could be written in personal notebooks for later reference. Women were expected to speak with a soft, sweet, loving, and poetic voice. She was to be nice and offer words of encouragement. All of this was to be done with a pleasant smile.
When women were asked to make a speech, the subject was to be about the love of God, the grace of Jesus, and the wonderful system of God called Gospel Assembly. If a woman arose to give testimony or was invited to make a talk, she could never interrupt a man. When she and a man arose at the same time, she was always to give preference to the man. Gospel Assembly's rules of etiquette were rather skewed when compared to the rules of behavior in society at large. When a woman rose to speak after the minister had talked, she was expected to follow the same train of thought as he had established.
It was not difficult to determine Jolly's perception of women. He had the same attitude toward women as his mentor, William Sowders. These two men's teachings will be compared in a later chapter. Jolly indicated that he would never let a woman "boss him." Ironically, that was exactly what happened in both of the churches to which he directly administered. Two women manipulated Jolly whenever they pleased. On the surface, it was hard to understand how Jolly could be so forceful in his downgrading of women, and allow himself to be beguiled by two of them.
The main topic of church services in the early 1980's was about the great revival that was to take place in 1985. The members were told that they were called by God to accomplish a special work on earth. They were led to believe that they were the chosen ones to restore the lost art of worship. According to Jolly, the early church which was under the guidance of the apostles, was perfect in the sight of God. He taught that the church eventually slipped from the perfect condition and that it was his mission to restore it to a perfect state. Jolly repeatedly told everyone to watch the Spirit. He even placed a little placard on the bible platform facing away from the audience which read, "Watch the Spirit." This was to remind visiting ministers about their mission while in his churches. The members were supposed to watch the Spirit and obey the Spirit as long as it didn't conflict with what Jolly wanted.
Jolly taught the congregation that he and the preachers under him were to be given certain gifts from God just as the apostles had in the early days of Christianity. These promised gifts were the gifts of healing, prophecy, and faith. Jolly claimed that the reason his church wasn't perfect yet was due to the fact that these gifts were not yet given. He believed that it was possible to build a perfect church and have perfect followers. He implored his followers to join with him to build a perfect church. He promised that if they followed his guidance, listened to his message, and obeyed him in all the things he told them to do, they would form the perfect church about which he had prophesied.
He reinforced this message by telling his followers that they were sitting in the midst of people who were going to be perfect. He enjoyed telling his congregation that he was looking into the eyes of those who were called to be the Bride of Christ. He followed this by saying that he knew God had called him for just that purpose. He would say, "I'm not blind; I'm not in the dark; I have been working for God all these years because He called me, directs me and informs me what my work on earth is to be." He continued, "I know that I hear the voice of God to restore His church; I'm going to bring the church out of the wilderness; this is my burden and responsibility."
Jolly used all types of tactics to cajole and manipulate his followers. He was verbally abusive many times and at other times he was gentle and assuring them that he could see them moving toward perfection. He assuaged their fears by telling them that he could see them advancing in love, solidity, and solemnity, thereby moving closer to God under his direction. He claimed that he was the instrument God would use to restore the church and the lost art of perfect worship. He said that as soon as God revealed the lost art of worship to him, then the gifts would be given to make the people perfect.
Jolly instilled in the people the belief that they could live perfect lives. He asked them to live perfect for one hour, progress to being perfect for one month, and so on until they lived perfectly continually. His idea was that if one person could fulfill that precept, then others could model after that one. He used the automobile industry as an example. Perfect individuals could be mass produced after the model of one perfect person. He used the book of Revelation from the Bible to illustrate the need to be overcomers. The overcomers described in the Bible were perfect according to Jolly. This perfect state was a life without any sin whatsoever. He warned his followers in 1975 that they had only ten years to become perfect in order to establish the kind of church he envisioned. He threatened that if the members of Gospel Assembly didn't become perfect in those ten years, then God would look elsewhere for a perfect church. Few recognized that this threat contradicted his message about Gospel Assembly being God's chosen people. The veracity of his statements was seldom, if ever, challenged.
Wayne recorded in his notebook when Jolly stated that he knew when Jesus was returning to earth. He claimed that he did not know the exact hour, but he did claim to know the month and year of Christ's return. He boasted in front of a large audience that this was to be in September 1992. The following time charts were used to bolster his bold prophecy:
[I will add these charts as soon as I get the time. They did not convert to HTML format. --M.D. Davis]
The wheel chart and the vertical chart depict the same prophecy made by Jolly. He patterned his idea from the manner in which the Jewish nation kept time. Jolly believed that the significance of the method of time-keeping in the Bible was the clue to what God had planned for modern day man. Jolly started with the year 1655 because he believed that the restoration of the early church following the Dark Ages began at that time. Each hour of the day was expanded to represent a fifteen-year period. Jolly concluded that the year 2000 would represent the end of the 24-hour Jewish watch period which was symbolic of the end of time. To make the theory work, Jolly had to conclude that Jesus would come in 1992, some seven and one half years before the end of time. This was in the middle of the last watch on the Jewish calendar. As noted on the charts, Jolly leaned heavily on the book of Revelation to support his theory.
Wayne and Mandel did not fully believe in Jolly's prophecy, but were afraid not to believe. Many church members were boldly telling relatives and non-church members about the imminent coming of Christ. Mandel was even tempted to tell her hair dresser about the prophecy. Her hair dresser belonged to a Pentecostal denomination and often told her he would see her the following week if Jesus didn't come in the meantime. Mandel wanted to tell him she knew when Jesus was coming, but she never mustered enough nerve to do it. When Jolly's prophecy was proved wrong, she was glad she had remained silent. Wayne was cautious about voicing his doubts because he could have been openly ridiculed had he expressed them. Wayne was positive that no one could become perfect through his own efforts. The Bible had too many references about salvation being a work of faith and not by man’s actions. Nevertheless, Wayne's silence was an act of assent regarding the prophecy. Wayne had a tendency to be analytical in both his religion and his profession and the time charts lent an air of legitimacy to Jolly's prophecy.
Jolly placed a lot of emphasis on what he called types and shadows. He taught that everything recorded in the old Testament was a pattern for the New Testament and for modern day man. As an example, he instructed that the Hebrew tabernacle described in the Old Testament was an archetype of God's complete plan for mankind. According to Jolly, each measurement recorded in the Bible concerning the tabernacle has a meaning for the present time. The courtyard around the tabernacle supposedly represents the worldly environment around the modern church. The entry to the tabernacle describes the various steps toward salvation. The steps represented are conversion, baptism of the Holy Spirit, and Christian perfection, all of which qualifies one to enter where God is in the Holy of Holies. He informed his followers that the terms of first heaven, second heaven and third heaven referred to in the Bible are representative of the three stages man progresses through to become immortal.
Wayne was often troubled by the cavalier attitude of the church leaders and many of the church members toward government rules and regulations. They acted as though they believed that cheating the government was acceptable. As a result of this attitude, there were members who cheated on their income tax, received unemployment and welfare benefits to which they were not entitled, along with some other questionable practices.
Wayne had a first-hand experience with this problem while he was still employed by the Illinois Department of Public Aid. A certain lady from the church had been providing home care to a recipient of the welfare department. When the recipient died, the church member sold the recipient's property and kept the money from the sale. According to the welfare department's records, the client was the owner of the property. The State of Illinois had a claim against the property for the amount of the recipient's welfare benefits. The church member had clandestinely tricked the recipient into deeding the property to her so that the state's lien could be circumvented. Wayne was thoroughly disgusted with his fellow church member. He wrote to her and asked her to come to his office in Marion. When Wayne confronted her, she lied and said she had no knowledge of what he was talking about. Wayne had directed his staff to check the deed records at the courthouse to confirm the transaction that had been made. The lady refused to accept any responsibility.
Wayne then decided that he would enlist the assistance of T. M. Jolly to get the woman to abide by the law. He wrote Jolly a letter describing the illicit behavior of his church member and asking him to intercede in getting the woman to comply with the law. Jolly did not answer the letter and refused to discuss the situation. Wayne brooded over the matter for several days and eventually concluded that it was unproductive to pursue it further.
In some other cases, Wayne found that certain church members were reporting false income information in order to receive government food stamps. He was appalled to find these felonious acts committed by members of his church. It was especially contradictory to the message Jolly was teaching the members about becoming perfect in every way. When he found out that Jolly was condoning such behavior, he was thoroughly confused. Wayne was reluctant to challenge Jolly because such a confrontation would invite public ridicule in a church service. Jolly could always take a wrong and turn it into a right in front of his congregation.
Jolly negotiated for a large conference center in Louisville, Kentucky in the early 1980's. He enjoyed having all of the members from the 26 churches he supervised to meet in one general meeting. These general meetings had been held in such places as Eldorado, Illinois, St. Louis, Missouri, and Indianapolis, Indiana, but the crowds had outgrown these facilities. Originally, Jolly had planned to build a large auditorium in the little town of Eldorado to accommodate the two to three thousand church members he expected to be at the meetings. He set the date for construction to begin on land adjacent to the Gospel Assembly church in that community. One thing after another delayed Jolly's plans and he eventually gave up on that idea. His explanation for the change of plans was bizarre.
Southern Illinois had suffered through a horrendous drought during the year that construction had been planned. The Eldorado city reservoir went dry and emergency plans were made for water replacement. Jolly rationalized that the town of Eldorado could not accommodate the influx of hundreds of church members from various parts of the country. There were not enough motel rooms available within driving distance and the same was true for eating establishments. Faced with all of these liabilities, Jolly still stubbornly held to the idea for several months. In time, he gave up on the idea, but concocted a story to satisfy the disappointed Eldorado church members.
He claimed that God had stopped him from putting up a large tabernacle in Eldorado. He swore that God had sent a drought to all of Southern Illinois in order to stop Jolly from going ahead with his construction plans. He told the people that God had done such a thing (as recorded in the Old Testament) and now He had done it in the present time. He apologized publicly to the citizens of Eldorado for having caused the serious water shortage in the area. Most church members in the community were profoundly disappointed that their church headquarters was to be moved to Louisville. When Jolly placed the blame on God, the church members couldn’t argue further. They accepted Jolly's explanation as plausible.
The convention center site in Louisville was owned by a large bank in that city. The buildings on the 63- acre site had been constructed by a Baptist congregation. They could not meet the mortgage payments and the bank foreclosed on the property. Bank officials were anxious to sell the land and buildings. The fair market price was somewhat more than the asking price due to the bind in which the bank was. The bank had established a selling price of $1,000,000, but Jolly would not agree to paying that amount. He kept hounding the bank official in charge of the sale to reduce the price. When the bank could find no other buyer with cash, it agreed to Jolly's terms, but at a figure well below the market value.
Jolly was elated beyond belief. He told his congregation repeatedly how he had manipulated a bank vice- president into selling him the property at a rock bottom price. He prated about the fact that the bank vice- president had lost his job as a result of the deal made with Jolly. One of Jolly's preachers revealed at a later date that the story told by him about the sale of the property was not completely true. Jolly had contrived the story to make himself out to be a superlative businessman in the eyes of his followers.
The church practices on tithing were the subject of many sermons. Jolly described how he had learned from William Sowders the proper way to get people to give money and their time. Every member was expected to contribute 10 percent of both his time and income to the church. In addition to the tithing, members were expected to give to other projects as well as pledge an amount of money each six months for church use. Jolly claimed that God showed him to institute a pledge system in the Gospel Assembly churches. If the membership had explored the basis for such a statement, they would have found that other church denominations instituted pledges for church buildings and equipment years before Jolly claimed to have received it from God.
A pledge meeting was a classic example of mass hysteria. Jolly or one of his preachers would work the crowd up by relating how God had instituted the procedure in the Gospel Assembly church. That would be followed by a long discourse on how the members could be blessed by giving. Giving was a tradeoff between the person who gave and God who owed a blessing as a result of the giving. The moderator would relate one story after another about individuals who had pledged money even when they had no idea how they would meet the pledge. In every instance, the giver was always reimbursed through God's help. The individual was expected to pledge money by faith, believing that God would make a way for the pledge to be paid. When the individual obligated himself to meet a pledge, his faith would be rewarded. When the moderator ran out of such stories, he asked for individual testimonies to support what he had already described in minute detail.
For example, a man testified to the fact that he pledged to give $1000 without knowing from where the money would come. A short time later, an unexpected income tax refund in that amount was received in the mail. A businessman pledged $5000 that he didn't have, trusting that God would give him enough sales to meet the obligation to his church. The man explained that he had tested God in that manner repeatedly and time after time God met the commitment. Such stories worked the audience into a frenzy of giving. Individuals would try to outstrip each other. Most pledged money that they did not have and had no idea where to get it. Church records revealed that many of these same individuals failed to keep their promises.
The procedure for collecting pledges was copied in every Gospel Assembly church twice a year. In addition, the procedure was also carried out in the general meetings, which were held two to three times per year. The minister starts out the process by asking for some ridiculous sum such as $10,000 or more. Occasionally, someone would respond and pledge that large amount. He points at each section of the church and asks for responses from that area before moving to another section. When the preacher decides that he can get no more at the specific amount for which he has asked, he reduces it to a smaller figure. For instance, he might drop from $10,000 to $5000, then to $1000, $500 and so on. Pledges as small as $1.00 are made. The preacher/moderator usually ends the procedure by asking everyone to clear their pockets and their purses of change while the offering plates are passed.
There is a constant build-up of delirium while the preacher is working the audience. He points to a section and asks for a show of hands of those individuals who will pledge a specific amount. When he moves to the next section, he tells them they can do better than the other section. Individuals get caught up in the atmosphere as they do at auctions and make decisions without giving any thought to the consequences of their actions. In fact, many of these pledge meetings degenerated into a colossal auction type bidding process.
Some general meetings were attended by two to three thousand persons. These were really examples of competitiveness. An explanation is made of how expensive it is to conduct a general meeting. The pretext was to collect enough for the current gathering, although it never stopped there. In one meeting, a young man who had just received a large sum of money pledged to pay the expenses of the entire session, which was in excess of $20,000. The young man had been injured at work and had collected a settlement for his injuries. In spite of the fact that the man was injured and unable to support his wife and children, Gospel Assembly church took his money. Jolly welcomed the pledge and praised the man for his generosity. It was easy to get caught up in the aura of such moments and lose sight of one's financial condition. Although Wayne and Mandel never succumbed to such tactics, they understood how easy it was for others to get entrapped. Jolly was a master with crowd psychology. He could work an audience into doing just about anything he wished them to do.
Jolly was anxious for the Gospel Assembly churches to have their own songbook. A woman who had a great deal of influence on Jolly was chosen to head up the group to establish a songbook. Many of the songs were ones written by members of Gospel Assembly churches. These were all composed to reflect the doctrine of the church. T. M. Jolly wrote a song entitled, "Would You Be an Overcomer." The song extols the main thrust of Jolly's dogma. Other songs reflecting the same theme were entitled, "The Overcomers," "Who's on The Lord's Side," "The Church Is Moving On," "Come Over Here," "The Ark Is Coming Up the Road," and "He Brought Me Into the Body of Christ." The songbook also contained a song written by William Sowders called, "Hallelujah Good Bye, I'm Gone."
The most disconcerting thing about the Gospel Assembly songbook was the fact that many old familiar songs were rewritten to reflect church doctrine. Whenever a sacred song had words that contradicted or were not in agreement with the church doctrine, it was changed by the music staff. It was never explained how the copyright law designed to protect the original authors was circumvented. Dozens of songs were changed in the book, and once they were learned with new words, it was difficult to remember the original words of the song. Often, whole verses were added to songs or old verses eliminated in their entirety. Some of the songs were unquestionably ruined by the changes. Complaints must have been registered with church leaders because in later years, Jolly warned the sound system personnel to not make recordings of certain songs.
Each Gospel Assembly church has an elaborate sound and recording system in order to produce tape recordings of church services. When Jolly was alive, he insisted on recordings of every service so that he could review what transpired in the churches over which he maintained jurisdiction. This allowed him to review preachers’ sermons to assure that church doctrine was not being sublimated or watered down. Whenever he detected something in a recording that irritated him, he called that particular preacher "on the carpet" to give an explanation. Failure to submit a recording to him also invited his wrath.
Jolly also insisted that all of his sermons be taped for posterity. Sometimes, he would ask the personnel in charge of the tape recordings to turn the recorder off for certain segments of his sermon. This was done when he thought that maybe his words could be used against him in case of libel. At other times, he directed that certain portions of recording already made be deleted. The recorded tapes were sold to members of the Gospel Assembly churches in all the cities throughout the country. Tapes often fell into the hands of those who opposed Jolly and this made him angry. He recognized that some of his words could come back to haunt him and they often did. His vanity and ego often overruled his better judgement and damaging materials crept into the recordings.
Church members placed a high value on the recordings and most families had a large selection of Jolly's tapes. For those who were unable to purchase the tapes, the church libraries maintained copies that could be checked out by members. It was common to see little old ladies with armload after armload of tapes traipsing to and from the library with a week's supply of recordings. A tape recorder was a necessity in the homes of Gospel Assembly church members. Women listened to tapes as they went about their daily chores in their homes, while the men listened to the tapes in their cars and trucks and workshops. The tapes were played over and over again so that the listener could store the material in his or her memory. This constant barrage of Jolly's sermons assured the leader that his message was getting through to his followers.
Wayne and Mandel built up a personal inventory of more than 300 of Jolly's tapes which they had purchased at $1.00 to $3.00 each. These tapes represented more than 500 hours of Jolly's sermons and form the basis for much of what is written herein. When Jolly was finally ready to admit that he had been wrong about his prophesy concerning the return of Jesus, he ordered all of his followers to destroy their tape collections and their personal note books containing data from his sermons. Wayne, of course, refused to destroy any of the materials he had accumulated. In time, he was able to neutralize the poison that was included in the materials and view them from the perspective of one who had been entrapped but is now free.
Not only did the preachers who were with Jolly parrot his words, but the congregations did the same thing. Testimonies seldom gave more praise and worship to God than they did to Jolly. In fact, the theme of most church services was directed toward the praise of Jolly. His name was mentioned dozens of times more than that of the Lord. This held true whether or not Jolly was present to hear the praise because the worshipers knew that he would hear their voice on the tapes. When he was present in a meeting, adoration and commendation were heaped on in an embarrassingly repetitive manner. It was embarrassing to Wayne but not to Jolly. Jolly neither shunned nor discouraged such behavior from his followers. Every testimony of praise was acknowledged by him, thanking the member profusely and encouraging more of the same from others.
Jolly's typical response to a flowery testimonial to him would include such statements as, "God bless you, brother or sister." Wayne started counting the number of times that Jolly's name was used in a Thursday night meeting and he lost count after it had reached more than one hundred. Most testimonies began with the participant addressing the man with the words, "Brother Jolly."
Regular church services were full of Jolly worship, but the yearly anniversary meetings in Eldorado were notorious for that. The accolades for Jolly during these meetings reached outlandish proportions. Jolly founded the church in Eldorado in November 1934; thereafter, the church has celebrated the event with an annual tribute to Jolly. The following quotations reflect some of the remarks made during these anniversary meetings: "God has loved and smiled upon Brother Jolly. God ordains and, He anoints; and for certain, He has anointed Brother Jolly. Brother Jolly has made Eldorado Gospel Assembly a model church. Men of distinct, rare faith like Brother Jolly are seldom understood. It is not that they choose to be different, but it is because God makes them different. All these years of preaching and teaching the word of God; all these years of prayer, study, counsel, direction and leadership--God bless Brother Jolly. Knowledge comes to make men wise, but it does not come without an immense price. Men like Brother Jolly who challenge or disagree with established church doctrines, often find themselves impugned by many, but men like him with distinct rare faith are seldom understood. It makes the greatest difference when our esteemed leader, Brother Jolly takes his place. A listless crowd will come alive and glory light their faces. Brother Jolly's gentle entreating ways point to a higher plane. In reproof and firm instruction, Brother Jolly stirs us to try again. With authority, Brother Jolly's message leads us onward toward the goal. He's a leader--what a leader! Brother Jolly is the kind that saves the soul! Our pastor's words of instruction, correction, commendation and reproof are of priceless value in keeping us prospering in God."
Kudos such as the ones quoted above were heaped on Jolly by one member after another. Anniversary crowds numbered from 700 to 1000 people. It was very similar to the enthronement of a monarch. Prior to the church service, everyone would get really quiet in anticipation of Jolly's arrival. His living quarters in Eldorado were in the church building within a few steps of the speaking platform. Jolly always entered late in order to enhance the sense of expectation and excitement building up in the crowd awaiting his arrival. All eyes were glued on the side door where he made his grand appearance. He followed a little ritual wherein the sound man attached a remote microphone to his lapel before he entered the main auditorium.
Everyone present knew that when the sound man walked in, Jolly would be following closely behind. It was sort of like a doorman announcing the arrival of a dignitary. All eyes were fastened on Jolly as he slowly made his way to his seat on the platform. He stopped at intervals to greet members of the orchestra and the choir before proceeding to his pew behind the speaker's rostrum. When he settled in his seat, he surveyed the crowd before him. The audience sat in quiet reverence and the only sounds that were made were those people whispering to each other about how wonderful it was to see Brother Jolly and be in his presence. As soon as he was satisfied that everything was in order, he nodded his head toward the piano player and she would start the music. This grand entrance was made every time he came to Eldorado. Nothing could proceed until he gave his little nod of approval. One could tell that he thoroughly enjoyed milking each entry for every ounce of adoration he could squeeze from his congregation.
It didn't take long to size up his mood when he began to speak, even though he usually sat emotionlessly to hide his feelings. He performed a strange ritual during group prayer and at other times when the church members were rejoicing in the Spirit. He usually did not lead prayer himself. He called upon one of his preachers to do that. The Gospel Assembly followers all engage in group prayer where everyone prays aloud at the same time. After Wayne once noticed that Jolly was not participating in some of the prayer activity, he made a decision to watch him regularly. While most people stood or knelt with their eyes closed, Jolly looked all around the room observing individuals. Jolly turned his whole body around to stare at members of the choir and orchestra after staring at members of the congregation. He followed this same procedure when members of the congregation were participating in shouting, dancing and otherwise demonstrating the effects of spiritual blessing. He rarely joined in that particular type of worship, although he encouraged others to do that very thing. He seldom spoke in tongues, but insisted that every one of his followers engage in that activity on a daily basis. It was very perplexing to see Jolly's lack of interest in the very things in which he insisted his followers participate.
Most church members owned large eight by ten inch photographs of Jolly which they placed noticeably in their homes. Members who had pastors reporting to Jolly had large pictures of both preachers in their homes. Jolly had his picture made at least once every few years so that each member could have an up-to- date photograph. Jolly's picture was displayed in every home in a prominent place on the living room wall or on a decorative table.
After Jolly's resignation, most of the pictures disappeared for a while, only to surface after the scandal died down. Jolly's picture disappeared, but the local preacher's picture stayed. The practice of exhibiting the minister's picture as an icon continues to this date. Old habits are hard to break, even when the object of affection has disappointed those who reverenced him. A visit to any home of a member of the Gospel Assembly church will reveal the presence of the current preacher's picture in a prominent place. It is a constant reminder to the members that God watches over them through their preacher.
Even after Wayne's mother, Thelma Hamburger, entered a nursing home following a debilitating stroke, she insisted that her preacher's picture be prominently displayed in her room. Her minister rarely visits her and his picture seems to give her hope that she is still important to the preacher and to God. In contrast, her deceased husband, Dedrich Hamburger is not even mentioned and there are no pictures of him displayed in her room. Wayne tried to remedy this by displaying his father's picture in her room, but it soon mysteriously disappeared while the picture of her preacher and his wife remains.
The notion that the minister is the most important person in the lives of Gospel Assembly members is so ingrained that no amount of reasoning alters it. Wayne once told his mother that a story which she had been told by her minister was untrue. She became exceedingly angry with her son. She told him that she believed everything her minister said and nothing her son told her would change that. With that type of attitude, it is impossible to counteract any false message that the church members receive. The mind control and brain washing over the years had made his mother a slave to whatever advice her preacher gave her. It is not surprising to Wayne that those persons in cults led by David Koresch, Jim Jones and others have followed blindly to their deaths. He experienced a version of the same type of propaganda as a member of the Gospel Assembly church.
Members are taught that disobedience to church leaders or any type of disbelief in the system is sinful. The Bible is used to reinforce this power control concept wherever and whenever it serves their purpose. Members are told that every time they sin, they will be putting a black spot on their own soul. That is a powerful deterrent to disagreement. Nothing can be more intimidating to one than to think one’s soul is destroyed by disagreeing with a preacher.
The Bible scripture frequently used to keep followers in line is Hebrews 13:7, "Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct." This was interpreted to mean that Jolly and his preachers were the rulers over all the church members, and anytime there was disobedience, disagreement, or difference of opinion, the members were breaking commandments of the Bible. This was considered a serious sin. When sin is considered to be a black spot on the soul, an individual will go to great lengths to avoid it. When power hungry leaders usurp that type of authority from the Bible, it can be dangerous. Despots in history such as Napoleon, Hitler and Stalin used carnage to accomplish their goals, but the same type of leadership can be accomplished by unscrupulous men using the Bible.
Following the purchase of the convention center complex in Louisville, Kentucky, Jolly was anxious to appease the disappointment of his followers in Eldorado. Even though he claimed that God had stopped him from building a tabernacle there, he was still determined to build something in the town. He announced that a new building project was to be started alongside the existing church building. His plans were to construct an apartment complex of 21-units to house elderly church members. Each apartment was to consist of a living room, dining area, bedroom, kitchen and bath. Construction plans called for a 13,145 square foot structure all at ground level. The building was planned with wings so that each apartment could enjoy an outside view.
Over the years that Jolly had been in Eldorado, he had acquired quite a number of properties around the church building. Retired members of the Gospel Assembly churches in other communities had been encouraged to move to Eldorado. Housing was limited in the community. Jolly installed water, gas and electricity in the empty lots surrounding the church and he purchased most of the old houses in the immediate area. When the houses were filled with retired church members, Jolly started inviting others to bring mobile homes onto the property already installed with utilities. Dozens of mobile homes were brought into town. Some were attractive and others were dilapidated and ugly. It didn't matter to Jolly because he collected rent on all the properties of the Gospel Assembly Churches, regardless of value. He was an insensitive landlord who refused to improve any property once it was occupied.
He claimed the housing was a part of church property and thus not subject to local or federal tax. Members never questioned the rationality of a so-called man of God who raised rent when the properties were improved by the renters and refused to pay tax on the proceeds.
Jolly was confident that residents of the old houses and trailers would be anxious to move into a nice new brick building, but he was wrong. He announced that applications were being accepted for occupancy, but no one signed up. For many months it sat, empty. In time, one lady from Paducah, Kentucky moved into the complex, but she didn't stay long. Wayne had tried to warn Jolly before construction began that he would have problems housing elderly persons in the new building. Wayne knew from many years with the welfare department that housing the elderly was a delicate matter. Most of the proposed occupants were receiving Social Security benefits. He knew that if the recipients of these benefits received free housing, their benefits would be affected. He also knew that if Jolly charged rent for occupants of the new building, there would be no way he could avoid paying taxes. This was all conveyed to Jolly and it fell on deaf ears. He just smiled and looked at Wayne as though he knew differently.
Jolly went ahead with the building project in spite of this warning. The construction phase was beset with problems. Jolly believed that the building could be built with volunteer labor just as the church had been. The men in the Eldorado church were indifferent from the start. Few showed up for work. The only way he could get men to work on the building was to hire unemployed men at the minimum wage. Those who had some type of income from other sources were expected to donate their services. Jealousy was a problem at the beginning, because the volunteers begrudged giving their labor while some were being paid to do the same job. Dissension was even more rampant when Jolly named three different men to supervise the project.
One of the men asked to supervise was a member of Wayne's family. This man lived 55 miles away in DuQuoin and was regularly employed as a night foreman for a coal mining company. This cousin also owned a trucking company which was operated by his sons. He left his job at the mines at 7:00 A.M. and hurriedly rushed to Eldorado to work on the apartment complex. He spent several hours at the job site, then rushed home to catch three or four hours sleep before reporting back to his job at the coal mine. After a few weeks of this, he was in a state of exhaustion just trying to keep up with all the responsibility. Jolly could have cared less about his problems because he was receiving free services from the man.
The cousin would direct the men to proceed with the building in a certain way, and as soon as he left the site, the other men in charge would contradict the directions. The laborers grew ever more confused as to what to do. The whole thing eventually deteriorated into a gigantic boondoggle with every worker making his own decisions. It is amazing that the building ever was completed at all. Building codes were ignored, of course. (Eldorado didn't have any.) Everyone just wanted to see the monstrosity completed so they could relax. The plumbing was installed incorrectly and practically every other phase of the construction contained flaws. In spite of this, the building turned out to be rather attractive.
Several men had their religious principles tested to the limit while working on the building. Tempers flared and some workers quit in disgust. One was seriously injured on the job. Jolly was really upset when he was informed that a worker had caught his hand in an electric saw, losing some fingers in the process. The workers weren't covered by insurance and Jolly did not want to spend money on medical services. He was also afraid that the injured man would sue Jolly and the church. Jolly went to Wayne's cousin and asked if he would include the injured man on the payroll of the trucking company in DuQuoin so the man could be covered by insurance. When it was pointed out that this would be illegal, Jolly became furious. Jolly grudgingly paid the man's medical expenses but never forgave him.
He had a difficult time figuring out how best to utilize the building he named the "Staff House." A few church members used it as temporary housing while waiting for more permanent arrangements, but none occupied it very long. In the last few years, the church library and nursery were moved into the building; however, that took place after Jolly's death. For the most part, the building remained empty after its completion in 1983. It became an albatross around Jolly's neck which he would not admit was ill-planned and ill-advised from the start. It stands as a half million-dollar monument to a man too stubborn to listen to reason.
Jolly enjoyed entertaining the visiting preachers who gathered in on Thursdays of each week. The women of the church labored for hours on Thursday to prepare the meal for Jolly and the other preachers. Although other parts of the church including the dining room were air conditioned, he refused to allow the kitchen area to be cooled because he thought it was too expensive. The main dining area was not private nor exclusive enough for the preachers, so one of the women who managed to get close to Jolly designed a dining room for their convenience. A portion of the main dining area was partitioned and converted into a fancy dining area to be used only by Jolly and his hand-picked ministers. After the minister's dining room was completed in Eldorado, all the other Gospel Assembly churches copied the idea.
Wayne resented the concept of a minister's dining room when he was told about it. He believed that Jesus had set an example by dining with his followers when He fed the multitudes. Jesus did not order the believers to build Him a private dining room for Himself and His disciples. The only recording of such an exclusive meal was the account of the Last Supper and Jesus wanted privacy to share the moment with his closest followers prior to His death. Even then, He washed the feet of his disciples to demonstrate His humility.
Jolly and his preachers wanted to be separated from the members of the congregation. Wayne often considered it peculiar that during general church meetings such as the anniversary meeting and other celebrations, the preachers ate as a group in a closed room while the rest of the congregation ate in the main dining area. The minister's dining room was furnished lavishly with special silverware, glassware, china and elaborate table settings. Special food was prepared or catered for the preachers.
In conjunction with the auspicious atmosphere of the preacher's dining room, select individuals were chosen to act as waitresses and servers during the meal. Young men were chosen to usher the preachers and their wives to their seats in the dining room. Pretty, young women were chosen to serve as waitresses. An elderly woman was put in charge of the group, but only attractive young women were recruited to serve the food and drinks. Diners could thus feast their eyes and their stomachs at the same time. These waitresses wore uniforms with dainty little aprons that matched the colors of the table settings. Aprons were starched and pressed and if one became soiled, it was changed at once.
Wayne was disturbed that Mandel was recruited to serve as a waitress in the preacher's dining room. She didn't like the assignment and tried to beg off, but the supervisor insisted that she remain. Wayne cornered the supervisor one day and told her what he thought of the dining room and its sanctimonious diners. Mandel was not called upon thereafter to serve in the dining room, and both she and Wayne were relieved.
Jolly often treated his underlings with contempt, yet he insisted that church members give all the preachers unlimited loyalty. He demanded respect for them and often it was undeserved. Each minister installed his own little fiefdom in the local church. If a church member refused to cower or pay homage, he was threatened with the wrath of God or T. M. Jolly. Many would rather risk the wrath of God than that of Jolly. The preachers emulated Jolly in every manner, including the harassment of church members.
Jolly thought it was his right and privilege to interfere in any church serving under him. If a church member was grieved by his own pastor or otherwise unhappy with conditions, he could go to Jolly with the grievance without telling his own preacher. Jolly often countermanded a local preacher when he pleased. Wealthy or influential members were especially favored by Jolly, and he had no qualms about forcing the local minister to back down in a given situation. This equivocation kept everyone confused and Jolly loved it. The local preacher gave advice, but always told the church member that if Jolly said otherwise, then that was what the member should be prepared to accept regardless of what he had been told earlier.
This even carried over to the Sunday School teachers. They were afraid that they would teach something contrary to what Jolly wanted. They advised their students that if they heard Jolly say something contrary to what they were teaching, then they were to ignore what they were being taught and accept what he said. This was especially frustrating to Wayne in Sunday School. The instructor was continually cautioning members that the class was not for the discussion of church doctrine. Doctrine was the sole responsibility of Jolly and everyone was forbidden to discuss it without him being present. The teacher was constantly in fear of offending Jolly.
In spite of the caution, Wayne often expressed himself in any manner he saw fit. When he first attended the Eldorado church, he truckled with all the others, but as time went by, he said what he pleased. Very often, other class members would warn Wayne about offending Jolly and even take it upon themselves to try to straighten him out. Class spies contacted Jolly after each class to report what was said. It was rather amusing for him to watch grown men grovel unnecessarily. Wayne learned that Jolly's word wasn't necessarily the voice of God, but most believed that very thing. Some were afraid for him.
Many of the discussions in Sunday School were centered on how the men could please Jolly, but the most repulsive remark of all was made by someone who felt that the class should take on Jolly's spirit. Jolly had become gravely ill with heart problems and the men anticipated that he might not survive the acute episode. It was suggested that the men should try to somehow grasp hold of Jolly's spirit and preserve it for the continuation of his work in Eldorado. There was speculation that outside forces would attempt to take over the church with Jolly's passing, and some of the men felt that it was their responsibility to carry out Jolly's plans for the church. Some suggested that a plan be drawn up to resist any takeover after Jolly's demise. They even went so far as to recommend a strategy for physically removing trouble makers. The teacher cautioned that the Gospel Assembly church was planted with the spirit of Jolly and it should always continue in the same manner. True to the purpose, it has done just that. Wayne pointed out that the men should be more concerned with retaining the Spirit of God in the church rather than the spirit of T. M. Jolly, however, that fell on deaf ears.
Standards for conduct, dress, and appearance are key issues of the Gospel Assembly doctrine. Church leaders introduced their own standards, along with those found in the Bible. By intermingling them, the leaders were able to convince the followers that these standards were ordered by God. The harsh rules were seen as God's demands rather than the true intent of Jolly. This was the manner in which Jolly was able to practice rigid control with very little dissent. Key scriptures used to demand adherence were ones such as I Peter 1:17, "And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your sojourning here in fear;" I Peter 3:1-2, "Likewise you wives, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear;" James 3:13, "Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom."
Anytime someone was seen dressed in something different from that prescribed by the church, he was viewed as one who was letting down the standards. A woman who cut her hair or a man who wore his hair longer than that decreed by the leader was castigated for letting down the standards. These standards were etched in the member's minds as church commandments that were on a level with the Ten Commandments of the Bible. It established a pecking order for church status. Those members obeying all the established standards were considered holy and commanded the highest respect in the church. They were held up as examples for all others to follow. Jolly heaped them with praise and they became the most haughty and supercilious.
Church standards were not just preached from the pulpit, but were an integral part of many other church activities such as Sunday School, Bible School, youth meetings and women's meetings. One Sunday School class was established for the express purpose of directing young married couples in the ways of the church. Young members were not allowed to marry outside the church family. Persons who broke that rule automatically excommunicated themselves from the fellowship.
Eligible partners for marriage were sparse in the smaller churches, so they had to look elsewhere for mates. The general meetings were hotbeds of activity among the young members as they surveyed for prospective mates. Single boys and girls used the large meeting sites to become acquainted with each other. The common meeting place was in the foyer of the auditorium. Jolly despised the fact that the young people used that part of the church for courtship, so he came up with the idea of holding a common meeting for just the youth of all the Gospel Assembly churches.
These youth meetings became very popular with the young members and this pleased Jolly. He was able to accomplish two of his goals with these gatherings. It allowed courtship to go on in a controlled atmosphere and it allowed Jolly to conduct classes for church doctrine. The youth meetings and the bible school classes were used to brainwash the youth during the formative years. He knew that once they were indoctrinated, they would not stray far from these precepts. Jolly never did like the fact that courtship went on despite his efforts to discourage it. He tried to curtail the activity, but he realized that it was not within his capacity to do so. He publicly assailed the young members for acting human. Wayne can recall the Thursday night that Jolly told the congregation in Eldorado that the Louisville Convention Center foyer was being made into a whore house by the teenagers. Most of the audience was embarrassed by this crass and uncouth statement, yet no one raised an objection to Jolly's lie.
Usually, Jolly's preachers and their wives conducted classes for the youth, but on occasion, lay members were used to instruct on various subjects. Wayne was shocked when he was invited to address the youth in Louisville, Kentucky after making similar appearances at youth meetings in Eldorado. He was told specifically what to speak on each time, yet he did assume some liberty in expanding each subject. Sometimes, he was given an outline and ordered to follow it. This limited his ability to communicate with the youth.
He resented the propaganda materials that were given to him for the classes because he could not subscribe to much of it. He felt that his instructional ability was being compromised and subverted to expand the influence of Jolly. He could do little else except to go along with the plan using subtle ways of slipping in his own materials when he thought they would be beneficial to his listeners. As an experienced social worker, Wayne was able to bring experience and expertise to the sessions. He found it to be a rewarding experience to pass along his knowledge to the youth. Jolly must have been pleased with the results, since he soon asked Wayne to accept the responsibility of teaching a regular Sunday School class of young marrieds.
This class was given the name of "Home Life Class" by Jolly. The young married couples were a challenge and Wayne relished the opportunity to exchange ideas with them. He was given some latitude in the material presented and it was this very leeway that led to him getting in trouble with Jolly. Wayne enjoyed the preparation time necessary for the class. He was able to expand his own knowledge of a subject and then learn from the class’ feedback as they absorbed the materials. In the beginning, the class members were unresponsive and leery of Wayne's motives. They soon warmed up to his method of teaching by freely discussing their fears and problems.
He encouraged the class members to express their objections to various church rules, both from an individual and collective viewpoint. There were various teaching methods used such as role playing and other class participation methods. They prayed for one another on a regular basis and assisted those who were having problems. It was this activity that drew Jolly's attention. Wayne was unaware of a certain adulterous liaison that had taken place between two class members. When one of the offending parties asked for class prayer, Wayne readily agreed to it and encouraged other class members to "gather round" the individual for a special prayer. The spouse of one of the offenders assumed that Wayne had knowledge of the affair and was taking sides in the sordid mess. Jolly was already aware of the adultery. Jolly heard what Wayne had done in class and designed a plan for retribution against the Sunday School teacher.
Instead of contacting Wayne in person or by telephone, Jolly resorted to his usual method of retaliation. On Thursday, February 18, 1988, Wayne was ill with influenza and unable to attend the church service. Mandel went to the church service alone, but after she arrived she was joined by Wayne's mother, who had traveled from her home in DuQuoin to be at the service. Jolly started his sermon by repeating many of the things that Wayne had recently presented to the Home Life Class. Then, he started criticizing the remarks and giving the identity of the person who made them. He never used Wayne's name directly, although he left little doubt as to whom he was talking about. He described Wayne's employment, family and educational background and proceeded to belittle every aspect of it. Both Thelma and Mandel Hamburger were embarrassed and outraged at the personal attack made by Jolly on Wayne. Jolly had made one miscalculation. He did not realize that Wayne wasn't in the audience to receive the public ridicule.
Mandel decided at first that she would not tell her husband of the personal attack on his character, yet she knew that he would find out from other church members, so she told him about it. Wayne immediately contacted Jolly and insisted on a meeting. Jolly reluctantly agreed to one. It was at this confrontation that Jolly finally realized the object of his vitiating sermon had not heard it directly. Wayne questioned him thoroughly about the remarks made in church and he began to equivocate. Wayne held firm in his pursuit of the truth. Jolly gradually revealed the whole picture from his perspective. He harangued the young lady that had received special prayer in the Sunday School class. He said that the woman had never been any good and that she was responsible for the adulterous activity that had taken place. He stated that the woman's own sister couldn't stand her. Wayne knew this was an absolute lie and called his hand on that. Jolly eventually apologized to Wayne, explaining that he had been too presumptive in passing judgment on the Sunday School teacher. Jolly would not and did not publicly apologize for his actions or ever admit to anyone else that he had made a mistake. He believed that his continued silence would preserve his beguiling persona (and it did).
Another incident that rankled Jolly when Wayne was teaching the class involved a proposal from a student minister. This student minister was an ambitious individual who was anxious to impress Jolly with his knowledge and preaching ability. He came to Wayne and proposed that he speak to the Home Life Class on abortion. Wayne slyly asked him if he was going to speak in favor of it or against it. He was offended by that comment and just about choked on his own response. Wayne agreed that he could come present his arguments to the class only if he was willing to debate the matter. Wayne proposed to take the affirmative side after the young preacher had presented the negative side. He angrily disagreed and reported the conversation to Jolly. The subject of abortion never came up again. This incident, along with the other one previously described, spelled the end of Wayne's tenure as class teacher. He saw what was happening and tendered his resignation before any action was taken by Jolly.
Church leaders were never willing for both sides of an issue to be presented or discussed. Wayne believed that he could not be effective as a teacher unless he presented both sides of controversial material. Jolly's word was final and he would never tolerate the careful examination of issues. This, unfortunately, is the reserved privilege of all tyrants and which ultimately corrupts not only the leader but the followers as well.
The manner in which the annual bible school proceedings was carried out was disturbing. The bible school sessions were held at night to allow for greater attendance by children as well as more participation by volunteers. Many families who were not members of Gospel Assembly sent their children to bible school at the church. This increased the attendance and brought children from varying backgrounds into the church atmosphere. Church leaders saw it as an opportunity to proselyte new members.
Children were sent to bible school at Gospel Assembly by unsuspecting parents who had no idea what lay in store for their children. These children were swept up into the mainstream of the style of worship without ever realizing the enduring import of such activity. Children were encouraged to go to the altar and give their lives to Christ. This was commendable, but it did not stop there. The next step was an attempt to get the impressionable children to speak in tongues.
Wayne was in vigorous opposition to that process. Young children under the age of 12 can be coaxed into doing many things whether or not they understand. Wayne's contention was that they could not comprehend the experience of speaking in tongues and that it was harmful for children to participate in something that may be puzzling to them for years afterward. Children were taught doctrinal songs with propagandized words associated with familiar melodies. Jolly told his followers that they should speak in tongues on a daily basis. Impressionable children are inclined to follow any advice an adult gives them, so it was common for many children (whose parents did not attend Gospel Assembly church) to carry these church practices into their homes. Wayne's contention, then and now, is that such practices should be done in private or in church and by those who fully understand the doctrine and its consequences.