Friday, May 02, 2008

Maine's cult history: The Kingdom

Frank Turek, collector of curiosities, recently pointed out to me a site about what is perhaps one of Maine's most historic religious sects, known familiarly as "The Kingdom." According to the website, The Kingdom was "founded in 1897 by Frank Weston Sandford of Bowdoinham, Maine," and grew steadily towards "the turn of the 20th century in the town of Durham in the State of Maine." The sect continues in a more modern form today, as readers will find, but still maintains itself as a strong religious presence in the state. The site is very comprehensive, and produced from within the viewpoint of those involved in the sect. If you're curious, take a look for yourself at http://www.fwselijah.com/. As the editor notes:
For many years the complete history of the Kingdom was available only to the members of the church on a "need to know" basis, and that history presented in such a manner that a certain palatable image was deliberately cultivated. Few individuals born since 1925 are aware of the movement's real roots, and it has been the lifelong ministry of some within church leadership to keep it that way. It is our intent to present the past as objectively as we can, by posting as many original uncensored articles as space or time permits and are available to us.
Those in the know may recognize this group as the basis of Shirley Nelson's book, Fair, Clear and Terrible, which I have a copy of on my shelf but unfortunately have yet to get a chance to read.

I recently read an account of the experiences of some of the folks who went on a missionary crusade to the desert from Maine that may be of interest to students of examples of Mainers' religious fervor, which I will see if I can dig up again.

Photo of Frank Sandford from Wikipedia.

3 comments:

Keith said...

Thank you for your focus on "The Kingdom." I am one of a great many x-members of the Kingdom and attended their Bible class for a year many years ago.

A few comments about your article. The website that you quoted is written by ex insiders, not current members, as one might realize if they reflected on the somewhat critical tone. (The "Kingdom ministries" link at the bottom of the article will take you to the site of current members of the organization who still carefully guard the reputation of its founder, Frank Sandford.)

I would encourage you, or anyone to read that book on your bookshelf, "Fair, Clear, and Terrible" by Shirley Nelson. It provides a remarkably lucid and well researched perspective on not only the Kingdom, but also the context of that era and location that could give birth to such an organization. It also describes the authors own search to understand the suspicious death of her own uncle when he was a 15 year old boy in the community known Shiloh in Durham Maine.

Keith Anderson

Mercedez said...

Hello. I am a long time resident of MDI, which I assume is the 'desert' that is referred to. I am curious the significance to this organization it holds. Thank you.

Michelle said...

Hi Mercedez! Actually, interestingly enough, the "desert" refers to real desert country -- Africa and Jerusalem. I definitely recommend checking the MDI library for a copy of "Fair Clear and Terrible: The Story of Shiloh" by Shirley Nelson! The story is quite amazing and fascinating, for a number of reasons. At some point I'm going to do a lengthy follow-up post to this one. The story of Shiloh is epic and still going, so far as I can tell. :)