Controversial Youth Sect
Pocket Bibles and Cheers For God
By M. Onieal, Syracuse New Times
March 8, 1973, North America
It’s become an almost expected part of life these days to be stopped by someone on the street asking for spare change. Many who have been down and out before will come up with a dime, remembering the time someone dug in their pocket for them. Others know the look and the old hard-luck rap all too well and have learned to walk on by without breaking their stride or silent stare.
In either case, it’s come as something of a surprise recently to be stopped by members of the religious sect known as the Children of God and told they want to give out something for free—“the Word and the Way.”
The Children of God, known to be the most radical and fastest growing part of the Jesus People Movement, established a colony in Syracuse last March and since then have been traveling throughout the city preaching their mixed message of God’s love and coming judgment upon the world.
Eight permanent members, ranging in age from 19 to 23, are presently living at the local colony, located on the top floor of a dilapidated house on Gifford Street. Their lifestyle is austere, their message uncompromising and each is firmly committed to living their life “100 per cent” for God.
“I’ve finally found what I was looking for,” said 23-year-old Michael Sharp, who joined the Children of God a few months ago and is today known as Cephas, his adopted Biblical name. “I was trying to get at the root of things—to find the root of people’s problems so I could help them and also learn to help myself. But I realized all I would be doing is putting band-aids on deep sores. It was a patch-up job. Now God is showing me how to help people mend themselves from the inside.”
Sharp was a senior at Siena College in Albany, majoring in psychology and sociology, and he would have graduated in June. Since his youth, he had always enjoyed helping people and in his spare time he was a “Big Brother” to a black boy in Albany who didn’t have a father. Yet, in spite of his studies and his volunteer work, he felt there was “something missing in his life” and had doubts whether his efforts to help people would be of any value.
While working in Albany’s Washington Park one day, he met some members of the Children of God colony in Albany. After talking with him for several hours, they invited him to come home with them. There he became “deeply moved” by their religious commitment and message. A few days later, Sharp decided to make the same commitment and left school, gave up all his personal possessions and joined the Children of God.