There are times when ignorance is embarrassing. As I look back, I regret showing my ignorance in such a bold fashion. Let me explain. At some point between March of 1992 and May 1992, I was allowed to speak during one the “Training Sessions” held at Grace and Truth Fellowship. This was a very informal setting. Different members, as they “felt led”, were allowed to stand up and tell the listeners “what God was showing them” about a certain subject or topic being discussed. On one occasion, I stood up and said something that showed my great ignorance. Previous to coming to Greenville, I had spent time in a library looking up different religious groups. One group I read about was called the Molokan Jumpers. My reading was brief and I only took away from the text one main observation.
It was this observation, which I was so anxious to share. I was new to this type of setting and I would “learn” much during the next few months and years. On that day, it was glaringly obvious that my words would be out of place and only show my desire to be seen as “knowing something others may not”. As best as I remember, I mentioned the Molakan Jumpers and said; “These folks think they are in the Spirit in their services only when they are jumping up and down”. I will never forget the look of the Associate Minister-GS. He looked as if someone had uttered a loud socially unacceptable body sound. He looked at me and it was evident that he wanted to move on and forget that I had ever brought up the issue. I could sense that I had violated some unwritten rule, but I had no idea why until later in May of that year.
During the May Seminar of that year, I would attend my first service of Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF). It was there I met the WOFF form of worship which included people jumping during the singing of songs. During all the years of being in churches, it was my first time seeing this exact type of behavior. It looked very similar to what had been described about the Molokan Jumpers! Now about the time the jumping started, I realized what I had said and why it had been met with utter disbelief! GS never brought it to my attention. It was just ignored and left to die on the vine, so to speak.
Before, I move on, let me say the information available about the Molokan Jumpers was very limited in 1992. The source I read may have had three paragraphs about them. It was just enough to give me a very incomplete picture. Today, there is much more information. In short, the group emigrated from Russia and settled on the west coast. You may read about the group at this link- http://molokane.org/molokan/#psalm . One signature practice includes the group singing the Psalms and making it a practice to jump or leap or skip during the singing. There is much more background information on the source webpage. The group is seen as a “separatist” group and has several sub-groupings.
All of these events came back me when I was shown a video of a WOFF group singing on Youtube®. Before I share about the video, let me interject that during my WOFF years, I was a “jumper”. The social atmosphere did not make it easy to refuse to jump and sing along with the many songs that came right from the Psalms. In fact, it was during October of 2004 that I experienced too much pain to jump during the singing which indicated a serious health issue. All that being said, watch the video.
Honestly, when I first watched it I had a hard time remembering the words to the song –“We Are Called to Walk Together”. What wedding was that song written for? Mark and Zeda? Anyway, as a defense against painful memories, when first coming out of WOFF, I purposed to not sing WOFF songs. After a few times watching this video, the words came back. VERY WEIRD. The jumping is WOFF-normal in this video. WOFFers did not make a train and proceed around the room. But, it was all similar enough to bring back the tons and tons of memories associated with the HOURS and HOURS spent singing this song and others. I told the person watching the video with me that after a while you sang the words without being aware of the words. It became rote and you were able to think of other things. Did anyone else experience that? I felt sure the folks in this video were able to watch the crowd, watch Brock running and jumping, watch the flag-wavers and so on. Maybe some were even wondering why they were in New Mexico with the Holocaust display? I wondered that myself when I first heard of the trip last year…
Survivors, who have come out during the last year, tell me of certain changes that occur during the singing part of a WOFF service. These changes are not shown in the video. I am told there is a line of WOFF members that run around the sanctuary during praise services. Again, I understand there is great peer pressure to participate and some have experienced serious injuries during this part of the service. The jumping/running may last for 45 minutes or longer and there is full group participation unless you are excused for medical reasons. In years past, there is such pressure to participate that I remember children and adults being asked why they were not jumping. What are you giving to? Open your heart? Are you under something? What sin did you not expose before you came in here? It was almost as if it was required to jump in order to show you were “in the spirit”- or at least the WOFF-spirit. Does that sound right?
Thank you, for taking time to visit and read this blog. Please, consume the information on this site responsibly. The author is not a licensed mental health professional and encourages those that need professional help to seek it. The intent of the material is to inform and be a resource. Be sure to tell every member that you know at WOFF about this blog. There are readers at WOFF. Comments are invited from all readers, including present or former members. Polls are not scientific and no private information is gathered.
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