Honestly, I can't remember if I told some of this already, so if I repeat myself, please allow me this. I am practicing for old age....
It is now 6 years since I got the "long form" application for Gilead, with over 120 questions to answer. 5 years since I got my notice that we were selected to attend the 119th class of Gilead from April-September 2005.
Prior to this, I really wanted to be a CO. I won't belabor the point about my ex JW wife wanting to go overseas, but suffice to say, her goal won out over my goal. As I look back, had I not gone to Gilead and then go overseas where I was attacked, I could very easily have still been a JW even right now. But 2005 was the year that the dam broke in my head, and I didn't just start to think, I had way too many thoughts to process.
We had good friends of ours (who were going to get bribed with tickets for graduation) drive us out to Patterson NY in early April of 2005. We fit all of our belongings in a little trailer that they towed, and off we went. We arrived a day later after leaving from Michigan. It was a full two weeks before class began. While we could have chilled out and rested for a couple of days, we barely unpacked and asked for work to do. Both of us thought this would make a good impression.
As I look back, I knew even then that I had doubts. But I did a good job of keeping them below the surface. The indoctrination of decades had done an effective job of me answering real questions with platitudees in my head. Like "I will figure it out. I am imperfect. This has to be the truth, we are the only ones who preach..." etc. Little did I know that how Gilead would teach the bible and how Bethel was would open my eyes to what this cult is all about.
In other posts, I have described the cirriculum of Gilead, so I won't detail that here. I read another Gilead grad from 1980 say that she was disappointed, thinking that Gilead would help us really know our bible's better, the original languages, etc, so that we could effectively defend our faith. No such education was available. I feel the same way. I thought that for sure, I would have my answers and doubts treated, that I would leave with more faith in the bible then ever, and that I would be able to use it to help others. It was horribly disappointing to learn that Gilead was nothing more then an indoctrination course designed to get the students to believe that the entire bible prophetically points to the past presidents and current Governing Body of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society.
Thats it. If someone asked what I learned today, it would be about the "exciting" (*yawn*) types and antitypes. 'Today, I learned that Elijah prophetically points to Rutherford, and Elisha to Knorr. I had no idea!' That kind of learning. All the freaking time.
But what really stood out to me at Gilead was being part of the Bethel family for 6 months. What an absolute weird place Bethel is. At Patterson, the cafeteria can hold well over 1000 people, and morning worship was tied the first 3 days of every week to Brooklyn Bethel, where a GB member or a member of the US Branch committee would take the lead. Every morning, Bethel has 4 commenters assigned for the daily text. Each Gilead student gets one turn at this. I had mine. I now regret not saying what I felt that day. "Does anyone here realize how ridiculous it is that you get up so early to eat breakfast, be scrutinized by a table head, and listen to more indoctrinatioin designed to kill your individuality?" Instead, my comment revolved around WT nonsense. It wasn't profound, and I am sure half of everyone who heard it was waiting for morning worship to be over so they could get a 2nd cup of coffee.
Like a bethelite, all Gilead students were reported on by the table head (an elder assigned to shepherd the other 8-9 people at his table) Are they awake? Happy? Nodding their heads? I put up a good front, after all, breakfast is the most important meal of the day....
Orientation was interesting. Bethel orientation includes watching all of the videos and what to wear, what is or isn't allowed at Bethel, etc. You are told that insisting on your personal rights could offend others. (even if their being offended is actually infringing on your rights, causing you offense. No one ever asks these questions)
Mon-Fri our routine was this: Get up at 5:30 and do a final cram for the 2-3 tests that day. Get dressed in a business suit for breakfast and morning worship at 7:00. After all that is done, walk to your first class at 8:00 AM. After two 1 1/2 hour classes in the morning. Lunchtime from 12-1:00. Class starts again at 1:00, 2 more classes take you to 3:00, where you go off for your final 2 hours of working as a Bethelite. I got to be in cleaning and the paint shop. Sometimes, you were scheduled in for extra study time instead of working. Other times, study would be scheduled instead of the lecture for that day.
When 5:00 comes around, down to the cafeteria you go if you want. You can either "glean" (Bethelese for taking tupperware containers and stuffing them full of food) or you can eat at the tables. Most Bethelites glean and eat in their rooms. We were too busy, most of the time, we ate in the cafeteria before studying.
Studying on a meeting night was hell. Some couples had to drive an hour one way, we had a half hour drive. We did the precursory underlining while at the same time, trying to prepare for tomorrow's tests. Other times, we read up, printed our own little cheat sheets with the answers to the questions, and do our best for hours at a time to memorize them. We were told that our class scored unusually high, in the 90% range. You only needed a score of 70% or higher to get a diploma.
For 5 months, this was the routine.
Does anyone want to know about the class picture? Not a lot to it. The photographers have a system where height determines where you are placed. They mix and match everyone about 5 times. It takes 2 hours or so. Beyond that, nothing to report, at least from class 119.
One of these days I will talk about graduation week. If you want to see class 119 graduate, check out the latest borganization video, it was filmed.
Like I said, these were just misc ramblings. I hope other Gilead grads can share their memories and impressions if they would like ;)