The West Ends of Louisville is a place that tests one’s faith. How could it be otherwise? The neighborhood is locked in unemployment and low income jobs. The quiet of the night is shattered by drunks smashing bottles in the alleys, the low throbbing music from the nightclubs, wailing of sirens rushing to yet another gang shooting.
Marie speaks of praying to the Lord asking that her partner (who is married to another woman) would begin to love her. It is not the first time. Sara speaks of having four children each by another man. When she got pregnant for her first time she was only 13, “I grew up thinking that that was the way things were supposed to happen,” she said. But these were points of views held prior to finding the Church of Truth.
The members of the small but growing group called “the Church of Truth” cling to their Swedenborgian faith for their survival. The members come from a grim background of drugs, jail, prostitution and depression from a city that seemed to have no future.
What characterizes their faith and differentiates them from a crowd of hardscrabble Bible belt churches clinging for survival? The first thing I notice when I travel there is their awareness that the Lord is present, alive and working in their lives as the God of Love. One gets the sense that Church of Truth members have come to rely on the presence and direction of the Lord in their everyday decisions. Most members would say that without that presence, they would be dead in the streets.
Another strong theme in the church is repentance. The message that the only way a person is lifted from their sins and protected from the destructive power of hell is through turning to the Lord in the shunning of specific evil practices in life because they are sinful – hurtful to society and harmful to the love the Lord intends all people to receive. Simple baptism, or membership in a church is not enough. One must practice repentance if one wants to be liberated from the ravages of an evil life.
The Bible and the Teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg have special significance in the life of the Church of Truth. There, a person can find an understanding of who the Lord is and how He leads a person to receive the power of His love. It is in the study of the Word, and prayer that the Lord opens up His leadership for a person inviting him to take steps that bring him closer to heaven. The Word isn’t a simple instruction manual, it is a platform for the Lord’s comfort, strength and guidance. As an outsider looking in at the Church of Truth, I get the sense that the members spend as much time as they can reading the Word because they are equipping themselves for the coming day of warfare in the streets. It is a spiritual warfare against the cravings of old addictions and a past way of life. They are looking to retain the Lord’s strength to make it through another day in the West End.
There is a clear sense of urgency in the Church of Truth. They have a perspective on ‘Salvation’ that is helping many in their neighborhoods