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Convent To Convert: Sister Charlotte Keckler’s Remarkable Testimony

Convent To Convert:
Sister Charlotte Keckler’s Remarkable Testimony
By Matthew Shaw

She signed the document in her own red blood, vows of chastity, crucial poverty, and obedience. She would never marry, own property, or disobey Church authority. Charlotte Keckler was a young woman who loved God and believed that her decision to join a Carmelite convent and serve Christ and humanity behind the closed doors of a nunnery would save her and her family. She could not have imagined the hardships and absolute terror that awaited her. The life that she innocently believed to be spiritual and sacred she found to be perverse and profane. Controlled and even enslaved by a corrupt Church and an unholy hierarchy, Charlotte spent over two decades in inhumane conditions, struggling to survive. Her story, From Convent To Pentecost, was transcribed from her own words, by Sister Eunilah Rutledge Mean, a United Pentecostal Church evangelist and pastor. It is a testimony of a nun who was miraculously delivered from captivity of the Roman Church and found true Bible salvation.

Charlotte was reared in a devoutly Catholic home and entered the convent school at age thirteen. At sixteen, she became a novitiate, officially dedicating her life to the Church in a wedding ceremony where she was espoused to Jesus Christ. The Mother Superior, impressed with Charlotte’s devotion, suggested that she consider entering the cloister, shutting herself away from the world to pray for lost humanity. After much prayer and persuasion from the superior and her confessor, Charlotte took her perpetual vows, vows that could never be broken. Diametrically different from the white wedding of her novitiation, Charlotte, renamed Sister Patricia, spent hours in a crude casket, shrouded in a thick, incensed pall, ritualistically symbolizing her death to the outside world (Rutledge 9-10).

Life inside the cloister is the stuff of horror novels. Charlotte recounts gruesome and incredible atrocities committed against and even by the nuns. Mother Superior, whom she dubs Legion, is a wicked artificer of cruel tortures and unreasonable punishments (41). The nuns, who are constantly reminded of Christ’s suffering, bear their own Calvary, shedding their blood and stretching their bodies to the limits of human endurance. Charlotte herself was variously mistreated being hung from ropes for nine days in a penitential chamber, only offered bread and water for sustenance. She was made to lick the sign of the cross on filthy floors, burned with a fire poker, and temporarily blinded by some chemical concoction thrown in her face be the abbess (44-45; 92-93). She describes deplorable conditions in an underground dungeon where some nuns suffered and even died. Each year during the Lenten season, leading up to Easter, Charlotte describes a macabre ritual of human sacrifice, thinly disguised as Christian martyrdom:

A glass casket was rolled into the center of the chapel (one flight underground). While the ceremony was performed, amidst chanting and prayers, a little Nun was then sealed and pushed back into the crypt in the wall. However, before the casket was placed into the crypt, we Nuns were allowed to look on that martyr through the glass lid. (Rutledge 28)

The convent perpetuated evil, appealing to the most godless and twisted perversion of Christ’s death.

Most disturbing is Charlotte’s claims about murders. Disobedient nuns were often killed or imprisoned in the subterranean dungeon until dead. Abnormal, illegitimate babies, sired by lecherous priests who visited the convent, were also murdered after receiving the rite of baptism. Charlotte describes a lime pit where bodies were taken for chemical treatment and decomposition.

For corroboration, Charlotte cites The History Of Puebla, a book which includes details about the opening of Mexican cloisters by the government. The discoveries made by Mexican detectives and officials in the 1930s, revealed an underworld of torture, imprisonment and death for nuns, illegitimate babies, and errant priests. Many other published tales of escape nuns in the nineteenth century lend credence to her story. Edith O’Gorman, who escaped a New Jersey convent in 1868, told of underground dungeons, sexual impropriety, and licking floors fro penance. A British nun, Sister Lucy (Ann Cullen) published tales of her experience after escaping from an English convent, detailing drunken parties by priests, flagellation with chains, and dubbing these nunneries sacerdotal harems (Kollar 207-209). Father Charles Chiniquy who spent 50 years as a Roman Catholic priest, and demonstrated sincere and honest fervency for his Catholic faith, eventually left and became a Protestant. His writing reveal a good deal about the characters of his fellow priests. He describes a meeting of Catholic clerics: Some were handing the bottles from bed to bed but half an hour had not elapsed before the alcohol was beginning to unloose tongues and upset the brains. Then the bon mots, the witty stories, at first, were soon followed by the most indecent and shameful recitals. The drunkenness continued each night: One night three priests were taken with delirium tremens almost at the same time. One cried out that he had a dozen rattle-snakes at his shirt (Chiniquy 421). Modern accounts of the vilest corruption in the Church of Rome are ubiquitous; and even now, the sexual scandals that plague the Church are regularly reported in the media.

Miraculously, Sister Charotte escaped from the convent. Through the treachery of her own family, she was kidnapped and returned to another. Under the direction of the new Mother Superior, she was burned with a plumber’s torch until she recanted for fleeing her fomer station (Rutledge 169). Over two years later, doing hard penance, Charlotte was providentially presented with another opportunity for escape when a gate was left unlocked after a delivery of coal. She fled again this time for good (Rutledge 175).

God, who recognized Charlotte’s hunger for Him, eventually brought her into contact with Apostolic believers. In March 1945, Sis. Charlotte Keckler was gloriously filled with the Holy Ghost in a revival meeting preached by Sis. Nilah Rutledge in Davenport, Iowa. She was baptized in Jesus’ Name at the close of the revival (Rutledge 194-195). This inspired encounter launched Sis. Keckler’s ministry and she traveled alongside Sis. Rutledge giving her testimony of God’s deliverance from convent life for the next 14 years. In 1957 Sis. Rutledge met and married Bro. John Mean, who has served as a United Pentecostal Church District Superintendent in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland for over 26 years. Sis. Charlotte continued to travel with the Means for two years following their marriage. In a recent telephone conversation, Bro. Mean described the Catholic opposition that Sis. Keckler met with during her meetings. The team began a revival meeting in Trenton, Nova Scotia. Sis. Charlotte’s testimony incited bitter protests from priests and the Catholic faithful in Antigonish, a nearby city. A mob came out with stones to attack Sis. Keckler, and the Chief of Police from a neighboring city, New Glasgow, promised police protection if they would move the revival to their town. The revival venue was changed, and deputies were placed at the meetings to protect the evangelists (Interview).

Sis. Charlotte Keckler’s message provides us with an astonishing look at the evils perpetrated in the name of the Catholic faith. While her experiences may be exceptional, they are not unique. Sis. Keckler used the pain of her past to create an effective ministry. Bro. T. F. Tenney, former District Superintendent of Louisiana, visited a Pentecostal service for the first time to hear Sis. Keckler’s incredible story. Her deliverance is nothing short of Miraculous, and the book faithfully preserves the overcoming word of her testimony. She died in September 1983 at the age of 85, a faithful member of Bro. Paul Price’s church in Napa, California. Her story was never discredited, though many have tried. Bro. John Mean says: She was a genuine lady, and a very beautiful person. She never misrepresented her cause (Interview). Sis. Keckler is undoubtedly beholding the face of the Savior that she longed to know when she entered the convent. She has now laid down the pain of her incomprehensible sufferings, for eternal life in Christ, not the Catholic Christ who necessitated such awful tortures, but the God of eternal love and blessed comfort!

This article Convent To Convert: Sis. Charlotte Keckler’s Remarkable Testimony written by Matthew Shaw is excerpted from Indiana Apostolic Trumpet a 2007 August edition.

Posted in AD - Apostolic Doctrine, ADAH - Apostolic History, AIS File Library0 Comments

´╗┐Without Form and Fashion: the Early Pentecostal Service

Without Form and Fashion: the Early Pentecostal Service
By Matthew Shaw

When the Holy Ghost baptism was given at Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost, the seekers of the Father’s promise were caught up in a state of spiritual ecstasy. Their Upper Room experiences inspired curiosity and ridicule as onlookers surmised that these passionate Pentecostals were early-morning drunkards (Acts 2). Along with the restoration of Apostolic truth in the early part of the twentieth century came a return to an authentic style of worship and service, driven not by dead liturgy or ritualistic tradition but rather infused with anointing and fresh power. Countless descriptions of early Pentecostal services help us recapture the spiritual spontaneity of our Apostolic ancestors. Universally, the narratives recreate an atmosphere of divine direction unfettered by denominational traditionalism and formality.

Some of the most poignant vignettes of Pentecostal meetings come from Los Angeles, the humble cradle of worldwide Pentecostal revival. Bro. Frank Ewart gives an early description of the earliest Pentecostal baptisms received in the home of one Sister Asbury of 214 Bonnie Brae Street in Los Angeles:

When Brother Lee walked into the house, he threw up his hands and began to speak in other tongues. Six people were already on their knees praying, and the power fell on them and all six began to speak in tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. This happened on April 9, 1906. This was followed, as at Pentecost, by a great noise that was spread abroad. The new recipients were beside themselves with joy. They shouted and praised God for three days and nights. It was the Easter season. The people came from everywhere. By the next morning there was no way of getting near that house. Those who could gain an entrance would fall under God’s power as they entered and commence to speak in other tongues; and this continued until the whole city of Los Angeles was mightily stirred. (Ewart 66-67)

When services moved to the mission at 312 Azusa Street, the saints operated with great spiritual freedom. Bro. William J. Seymour, the African American leader of the group, assumed no position of direct authority or governance over the proceedings at Azusa. Bro. Frank Bartleman’s early depictions of the Azusa mission demonstrate both Bro. Seymour’s personal
humility and the liberty of the Spirit: Brother Seymour generally sat behind two empty shoe boxes, one on top of the other. He usually kept his head inside the top one during the meeting, in prayer. There was no pride there. The services ran almost continuously. Seeking souls could be found under the power almost any hour, night and day. The place was never closed nor [sic] empty. The people came to meet God. He was always there. Hence a continuous meeting. The meeting did not depend on the human leader. God’s presence became more and more wonderful. In that old building, with its low rafter and bare floors, God took strong men and women to pieces, and put them together again for His glory. It was a tremendous overhauling process. Pride and self-assertion, self-importance and self-esteem, could not survive there. The religious ego preached its own funeral sermon quickly. No subjects or sermons were announced ahead of time, and no special speakers for such an hour. No one knew what might be coming, what God would do. All was spontaneous, ordered of the Spirit. We wanted to hear from God, through whoever [sic] he might speak. We had no “respect of persons.” The rich and educated were the same as the poor and ignorant, and found a much hard death to die. We only recognized God. All were equal.” (Bartleman 58-59)

The services at Azusa were truly free, and early practitioners of the Apostolic Faith were afraid to grieve the Spirit or to hinder God’s sovereign work in their midst.

Worship, testimonies, and even preaching were spontaneously conducted. An early issue of The Apostolic Faith, the periodical published by the Azusa Street mission, describes how the saints sang in other tongues:

One of the most remarkable features of this Apostolic Faith movement is what is rightly termed the heavenly anthem. No one but those who are baptized with the Holy Ghost are able to join in or better, the Holy Ghost only signs through such in that manner. Hallelujah! . . . a beautiful song was sung in tongues: Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest” (Matt. 21:9) . . . We afterward learned of a remarkable coincidence. The same song was being sung at the Pentecostal Mission at 3271/2 S. Spring St., and was interpreted there the same.” The saints worshiping in these two places were in perfect harmony of spirit, and the Holy Ghost witnessed to it. (“The Heavenly Anthem” 3).

Bro. Bartleman himself experienced this Pentecostal phenomenon:

Friday, June 15 [1906], at “Azusa,” the Spirit dropped the “heavenly chorus” into my soul. I found myself suddenly joining the rest who had received the supernatural “gift.” It was a spontaneous manifestation and rapture no earthly tongue can describe . . . In the beginning in “Azusa” we had no musical instruments. In fact we felt no need of them. There was no place for them in our worship. All was spontaneous. (Bartleman 56-57)
Preaching was also impromptu, wholly inspired by the Spirit:

The Lord was liable to burst through any one. We prayed for this continually. Some one would finally get up anointed for the message. All seemed to recognize this and gave way. It might be a child, a woman, or a man. It might be from the back seat, or from the front. It made no difference. We rejoiced that God was working. No one wished to show himself. We thought only of obeying God. (Bartleman 59)

Likewise, the altar invitation was spiritual and spontaneous:

Some one might be speaking. Suddenly the Spirit would fall upon the congregation. God himself would give the altar call. Men would fall all over the house, like the slain in battle, or rush for the altar enmasse [sic] to seek God. The scene often resembled a forest of fallen trees . . God himself would call them. And the preacher knew when to quit (Bartleman 60).

The space allotted here is not ample enough to depict the composite service enjoyed by early Pentecostals in the glorious days of the Los Angeles outpouring. But the details, fortuitously preserved for us, recapture a time when worship was not synthesized from syncopation, sermons were not recycled from revival to revival, and altars were not gratuitously graced by passionless penitents. We must be careful not to replace spiritual unction with modern function, extinguishing the flames of revival with form and fashion. Rather, we must reserve spacious room in our contemporary worship for a Pentecostal visitation of the Holy Ghost, allowing God’s Spirit to direct and define every service for by His divine power and for His eternal purposes.

Works Cited:
Bartleman, Frank. How Pentecost Came to Los Angeles: as It was in the Beginning, 2nd. Ed. Los Angeles, 1925.

Ewart, Frank. The Phenomenon of Pentecost. Word Aflame Press: Hazelwood, MO, 2000.

“The Heavenly Anthem.” The Apostolic Faith 1 (5). January 1907, p. 3.

From, Indiana Apostolic Trumpet/July 2007/Page 6-7, by Matthew Shaw

This material is copyrighted and my be used for study & research purposes only

Posted in AD - Apostolic Doctrine, ADAH - Apostolic History, AIS File Library0 Comments

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