Today, I have the honor of hosting Robert Fear, July’s Rave Reviews Book Club’ Spotlight author with an awesome excerpt from his book Exclusive Pedigree.
Excerpt from Exclusive Pedigree
I have been unable to discover how my parents came to meet each other. They certainly had quite different family backgrounds. Mother and her two siblings were brought up by their widowed mother, Annie Eleanor Coslett (later Harwood), in a small miner’s cottage in the industrial Welsh village of Basaleg. The view from grandma’s front window was dominated by a huge slag heap which was an accumulation of waste excavated, over the years, from the village coal mine.
Compared with the straightened circumstances of my mother’s family, my father was brought up in a relatively affluent home. His family lived in a three storey town house in the residential area of Bedminster in Bristol. This was within walking distance of the Clifton Downs and the famous Suspension Bridge that spanned the Avon.
In view of their different social backgrounds and the distance that separated their homes, there is little doubt that the one thing they had in common brought them together. This was the fact that Paul and Bertha’s families both belonged to the small and secretive Christian sect, now known as the Exclusive Brethren. It is purely speculative but I think it quite likely that they met in Newport at one of the regular monthly fellowship gatherings that were held in the area covering Bristol and South Wales.
The Exclusives only permitted their young people to marry someone from their own restricted circle and so these Saturday meetings, held ostensibly for ministry, served to introduce single youngsters to potential life partners who lived within easy travelling distance of their respective homes. My parents were 23 when they married in 1925 but remained deeply in love until they both died, within a few days of each other, in October 1991. To the very end of their lives both parents remained implacably loyal to the extreme and increasingly manipulative leadership and teachings of the Exclusive Brethren. For this reason four of their six children were sadly denied any contact with them during the last twenty five years of their lives.
The original Brethren movement (often referred to as the Plymouth Brethren) began in Dublin in 1825. It claimed to be a reaction against the spiritual deadness of the established churches of the day. The early Brethren leaders stated that their desire was to restore the simplicity of worship and gospel witness that characterised the life of the early Church. They also expressed their intention to be free of all authority or traditions outside the letter of Scripture. They recognised no ministerial order in the administration of the Sacraments of the Church, Baptism and Holy Communion. One of the founding leaders, John Nelson Darby, outlined his objection to the exercise of any clerical office in the Church in a book, curiously entitled, The notion of a clergyman – dispensationally the sin against the Holy Spirit. The Brethren fervently believed in the imminence of Christ’s second coming and in consequence they had a strong interest in the study of Biblical prophecy. Our Lord’s second advent was frequently referred to in the weekly Gospel sermon, preferably and hopefully in the preacher’s own lifetime. We were warned that the Lord would come back when we least expected Him (“… like a thief in the night”) and only those who deserved it would, “rise to meet Him in the air”.
When I was six or seven, my parents led me to believe that I was quite a naughty boy and I constantly lived with the expectation that I would be left behind when Jesus came back to take the ‘elect’ to Heaven. On one occasion, when I came home from school, mother was not where I had grown accustomed to finding her. No one will ever know the fear that paralysed me as I immediately concluded that the Lord had indeed returned, taken my parents and left me behind. I was immeasurably relieved when she eventually walked into the room.
In 1845 the Exclusive minority broke away from the mainstream of the movement (widely known as the Open Brethren). From that time a system of centralised control began to govern the administration of all their Assemblies, the name that identified the Exclusives’ local churches. Such local autonomy, as there was, ceased to exist and the increasing emphasis on ‘separation from the world’ introduced elements of legalism which the leaders of the Brethren had earlier renounced. The Exclusives abandoned the original principle of mixing freely with other believers and this separatist stance led them to bar Christians, not in their fellowship, from participation in the Communion Service. In due course they gave up the missionary enterprises that motivated the Brethren from the start of the movement. Darby, who led the breakaway, had an acrimonious relationship with former friends who remained with the Open Brethren and this breach has not been healed to this day.
Find EXCLUSIVE PEDIGREE on Amazon.
Born in Leicester, UK in 1955, Robert’s family moved to Surrey when he was 11. He was educated at Reigate Grammar School. After this he worked at a bank in London for several years before getting the travel bug. Fred, a nickname he got at school, stuck throughout his travels and has remained with him to this day. His travels took him to Ibiza for the summer of 1977, hitch-hiking around Europe in 1978 and the USA and Canada in 1979. During this time he also settled and worked in Germany. Fred’s Diary 1981 was written during the 158 days he spent travelling around Asia.
These days Robert is happily settled in Eastbourne, East Sussex where he lives with his wife and three cats. He works as a software consultant and has been able to combine work with some travel during the past fifteen years, having visited countries as far apart as Australia, Singapore, Ghana and Suriname.