As Rebecca Stott’s father lay dying he begged her to help him write the memoir he had been struggling with for years.
He wanted to tell the story of their family, who, for generations had all been members of a fundamentalist Christian sect. Yet, each time he reached a certain point, he became tangled in a thicket of painful memories and could not go on.
The Exclusive Brethren were a closed community who believed the world is ruled by Satan: non-sect books were banned, higher education was outlawed, women were made to wear headscarves and practice subservience. Those who disobeyed the rules were punished. Rebecca was born into the sect, yet, as an intelligent, inquiring child she was always asking dangerous questions. She would discover that her father, an influential preacher, had been asking them too, and that the fault-line between faith and doubt had almost engulfed him.
In her memoir Rebecca gathers the broken threads of her father’s story, and her own, and follows him into the thicket to tell of her family’s experiences within the sect, and the decades-long aftermath of their breaking away.
• The Exclusive Brethren are an Evangelical Protestant Christian church.
• There are 16,000 Brethren in the UK, and 46,000 globally.
• The Brethren have established their own schools in the UK. These follow a curriculum that match the Brethren moral ethos.
• Members follow a rigid code of conduct based very strictly on Bible teaching, which provides a firm moral framework and is focussed on a strong family unit.
• They keep themselves separate from other people (including other Christians) as far as possible, because they believe the world is a place of wickedness. They regard ‘exclusiveness’ as the only way to keep away from evil.
Rebecca is an author and academic. She teaches English Literature and Creative Writing in the University of East Anglia and writes fiction and non-fiction. Her novels include Ghostwalk and The Coral Thief. She lives in Norfolk.