Not standing at the churchyard gate

Sep 23rd, 2010 | By | Category: Church of Ireland Comment

Having for years regarded grace as more important than regulations, there was a need to check through the canon law of the Church of Ireland lest there be letters of complaint on our return to Ireland. There was a Dipper funeral in our churchyard – the canons seem to suggest I might have insisted that the Prayer Book burial service be read, but who with any degree of compassion would impose an alien tradition upon a grieving family? Being absent, there could be a plea of innocence, but had I been there, I would simply have stood at the edge of the crowd and tried to show solidarity with fellow human beings in a time of grief.

The ‘Dippers’ or ‘Cooneyites’ are biblical fundamentalists, adhering firmly to the Book of Revelation. They do not have televisions or radios or read newspapers, and certainly would not have the Internet, so are not in a position to respond to material written about them by others. They would reject the term ‘Dipper’ as a pejorative description of their baptism of adults by total immersion, and would certainly reject the label ‘Cooneyite’; Cooney was one of their founding figures.. They would be classified as a ‘sect’ in the sociological sense of the word, but would obviously not see themselves in that way. The nearest parallel would be the Amish in Pennsylvania, although the Cooneyites do allow modern machinery. They marry within their own community and the women play a very passive role on their community, in accordance with their understanding of Saint Paul’s teachings. Because they have no churches, they have no burial ground, so must bury in cemeteries or churchyards controlled by others. Their funeral ceremonies have no traditional funeral prayers, just hymns and very evangelical preaching.

There would have been stories from the 1970s of Church of Ireland clergy objecting to any suggestion that such a ceremony be held within their churchyard (the same clergy would have probably told anyone who was not a confirmed member of the Church of Ireland that they could not receive Holy Communion). The result would have been that the funeral would have been held at the person’s house, or, even worse, at the churchyard gates, and the clergyman would have stood and waited for his opportunity to say Seventeenth Century prayers at the grave. It is difficult to see how such legalism did anything for the witness of a church in its community.

A Church of Ireland colleague, who had close relatives who belonged to the Cooneyite community, once described them as “strong on ethics and weak on grace” – which in plain English means that they believed very strongly that their life should reflect some standard of absolute purity and that they had no great sense that Jesus came to bring forgiveness for everyone, and not just for a small group of the ‘elect’. Should I be challenged I shall plead that I was attempting to show grace, or at least some sense of common humanity, for there has been little enough of that in generations past.

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  1. I suppose it’s good, if not always easy, to show hospitality to even the somewhat awkward and ornery visitors.

  2. Coals of fire 🙂

  3. I am an amused ex “Cooneyite”, Amish convert passerby.

    The term Cooneyite is incorrect, as Cooneyites were a breakaway group from the original group who died out. The original group which is often referred to as “Two by Twos” split into three (Irvinites & Cooneyites who both died out, and the Two by Two group).It was only the Irvinites who focused on the book of Revelation.Note that all 3 terms are merely names given by outsiders. Before the original group split into three, it had began on good intentions.

    Yes, the Two by Twos used to live very like the Amish.However while I have older relations who are very like the Amish in many ways, they are seen as a curious oddity by the other Two by Twos.Most Two by Twos have become quite worldly; many secretly watch DVDs while scorning TV and wear makeup when outside the presence of other Two by Twos &c.. Two by Twos do read newspapers and do use the internet. However this was not the case 15 years ago.

    Two by Two women would not be passive at all.Female Two by Two members can become ministers & therefore have quite a bit of power over others.They can also speak in Two by Two meetings and conventions.They only thing they cannot do is become overseers (only male ministers can do that), make the announcements & prayers at conventions or become bishops even if the Sunday morning meeting is held in their home.

    And actually the main part of the funeral service is at the deceased’s home.Later at the burial the ministers like to launch into their fire and brimstone speech at the outsiders at the graveside.

    However like the Amish Two by Twos practise adult baptism, used to practise a non-conformity with the world, used to dress plainly, have meetings in members homes, believe in women wearing only womens’ clothes & having long hair and do not let people have TVs.

    Maybe you are confusing Two by Twos with the Exclusive Plymouth Brethren who treat their women badly when you say Two byTwos do not use the internet or read newspapers?

    But the phrase “strong on ethics and weak on grace” to describe Two by Twos is just perfect.Two by Twos follow a doctrine of works.They believe for the chance to be saved that they must (1) hear the “gospel” from Two by Two ministers, (2) join the group, (3) strive to obey all that the ministers teach and (4) try to imitate Jesus the best they can.They also believe that no one will know if they are good enough until they die- basically they do not believe that one can know if one is saved while on earth.Many deny the trinity and insist that Jesus was just a man who lived to set the world an example to follow.The ministers claim to be apostles chosen by God.Their preaching to regarded as akin to God’s word.In their preaching the praise their colleagues more than they praise God or Jesus and they quote their colleagues’ quotes more than they quote the bible.They see themselves akin to Jesus (ie- for them this means, setting the perfect example to follow).Everyone else is expected to obey them in all things.Few challenge them because they see that as challenging God Himself.Therefore when a minister wants to stay at my house for weeks on end getting meals and laundry done for him/her or if a minister wants to use my car for the month or if a minister wants me to have him/her for dinner this week– I must obey.It is believed that they are the one true church from Acts and that everyone else is hellbound (actually the group began 100 yrs ago but many are kept in darkness about that).The ministers use this belief to make people obey their rules because they know that members fear excommunication as they see excommunication as a 1 way ticket to hell.When those who were born into the group like me and never joined, they too are seen as hellbound.

    I never joined, left when I could.Found the Beachy Amish and am in the process of joining them instead. I preach the gospel to the Two by Twos whenever I get the chance, including the ministers, or workers as they are called.

    I notice that you are an Anglican rector.I know a young Anglican lady from Longford who has got sucked into the group.I showed her all the bible verses showing that the Two by Twos are twisting the gospel, I told her of all the workers and members that went to jail for child s*x abuse, I told her of the real beginning of the group but she had been too brainwashed to accept these things.She was baptised into the group last year. They are a cult in many ways but as an Anglican minister who can spread the word of warning.

  4. Hi,

    Thank you for the enlightenment. However, the local ‘Dippers’ as they are known in our community would still spurn the modern media and would differ from the Exclusive Brethren by not having meeting halls in the way the Exclusives do.

    With prayers for you in your ministry.

  5. Hello Ian,

    I am related both directly and indirectly to the majority of Irish “Dippers” as you call us, so I can assure you that the majority of the young people post images of themselves wearing miniskirts, trousers and makeup on facebook, listen to secular music and watch youtube movies.I should know afterall, having grew up a Dipper.

    It’s the older Dippers who scorn the use of TVs and radios- and they are dying out.One of the reasons why I left the group and moved towards the Beachy Amish was because Dippers became too worldly for me with their secular music, DVDs, makeup, trousers, playstations and radios.(It’s not the main reason why I left but one of many reasons for my leaving) I remember when things were plainer but now people are mixing with the world.

    The way you described Dippers in your blog made me feel a mixture of odd feelings owing to the fact that I was born a Dipper and now am converting to the Amish.Is that how my neighbours viewed me (a passive woman, non-resistant, shunning technology)?Probably, but it’s not an accurate picture.At the start it was true but not anymore.It’s a compliment that you compared the Dippers with the Amish but it’s a compliment too good for the Dippers.The Amish are far superior in many ways; they follow the real gospel of Jesus, their unbaptised members are free to leave, they have not become involved with the world, they do not have leaders who demand ultimate obedience from all members, they believe in modesty in behaviour as well as appearance, the importance of forgiveness, they believe in submission to and acceptance of God’s will.Dippers are in general the opposite of this; they are smug in the belief that they are the only true church, the workers slander all other groups at conventions, those who leave are shunned, have rumours spread about them and are seen as lost and “bitter”, they cannot vote on important decisions unlike the Amish and they must obey the workers in all things.

    It’s clear that you doubt me despite my being a Dipper, so here is some evidence for you of Dippers online:!/group.php?gid=22177045257!/group.php?gid=2225127875!/group.php?gid=139521395829 (a blog by a worker) + her facebook:!/profile.php?id=1282796623 (a blog by a worker) (a blog by a worker) (a blog by a worker)!/profile.php?id=1282796623 ( a worker’s facebook)


  7. I thought that you might be interested in my blog, with regard to the ‘Cooneyites’ and the ensuing debate…

  8. I am a practising Roman Catholic and i am very interested in the Amish,Mennonite, cooneyite way of life.I suppose being a farmer and close to nature you tend to see things clearer.I know some people here in longford and roscommon who are cooneyites,but the locals call them dippers,they are lovely people,very correct and good living.

  9. It’s more than four years since I wrote that piece, and I must say that during that time I have met with only exemplary warmth and kindness from a Dipper neighbour.

  10. Is there any communities of beachy Amish or the likes here in the north midlands and if so would it be possible to attend one of their gatherings,or would that be frowned upon.I would sure love to attend one.William fox. co longford.

  11. The only Beach Amish community in Ireland seems to be in Co Waterford.

  12. Hello all.I am a practicing Catholic and pastoral council chairman in my parish in Limerick.I would just like to tell you all that I have found all your comments and contributions on this group of Christians very interesting and informative ,We all need to contemplate daily and open our lives to the teaching of our Lord and savior,and his love for humanity across the ages of human kind .All of us need to take time to consider each day in in our short lives on this earth , the wonder of the human mind and our everlasting souls and our duty to try each day to understand the mystery of God almighty through Jesus Christ the son of God and do as he told us ,” love God and love our neighbour.”I knew a man of this faith,He was a good man who loved God and his neighobur by word and deed every day of his life .He was an inspiration to me.

    Peace be with you

  13. Thank you, Rory. I have a “Dipper” neighbour who is one of the kindest people I know.

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