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The Devil in Pew Number Seven – A True Story

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” The title of this book, and the preceding quote on the front cover, led me to believe that this was going to be a true story similar to “The Amityville Horror” and other “true stories” of demons and possession. I was shocked as I proceeded to read it that it IS a true story. You will have a hard time believing all the things that went on in a small town and how a minister and his family were terrorized in America in the 1970’s. That is right – the 1970’s…

The author, Rebecca Nichols Alonzo, relates the story of her childhood growing up in the town of Sellerstown, North Carolina. Her father, Robert Nichols, was a minister and he and his wife had moved to the community as he was to be the new pastor of The Free Welcome Holiness Church. Rebecca had not yet arrived on the scene as her mother was pregnant when they moved, and a brother Daniel would also join them later. A young family starting a new life in rural America would not normally provide any reason for a book to be written, however a Mr. H. J. Watts would make sure that their lives were anything but peaceful.

The anonymous phone calls to her parents started when Rebecca was only eighteen months old. The caller would threaten Mr. Nichols and then hang up. This was in 1971 when there was no such thing as caller ID, and even traces on phone calls were unusual and only used in extreme cases. Unfortunately it would get to that point, however much too late to help the Nichols’ family. These phone calls continued for years, at all hours of the day and night, making it impossible for the family to relax and enjoy their home and community. There were also unsigned, anonymous letters sent to them, threatening harm if they did not leave the church and get out of town. The stress imposed by these phone calls and letters alone must have been enormous, however it went much, much farther than that.

Mr. H. J. Watts was a wealthy resident who had his hands in most people’s business, and was also practically in total control of The Free Welcome Holiness Church. When Mr. Nichols arrived as the new pastor, he started to change how things were done. As the membership in the church grew mainly due to Mr. Nichols’ popularity, Mr. Watts lost much of his influence and judging by his reaction he must have seethed inside. He would attend church every Sunday and sit at the back in pew number seven. He would make faces at Mr. Nichols during the sermon, look at his watch and do all he could to disturb the service. Often he would leave before the service was over and loudly slam the door on his way out to be certain others knew of his displeasure. In spite of his antics, the vast majority of the community was pleased with how the church was prospering, although they did literally nothing to stop Mr. Watts from his brutal harassment.

Rather than chronicle all of the unthinkable things that were done by Mr. Watts and his accomplices, I will relate one instance that will astound you. On the night of July 1, 1975 DYNAMITE was ignited outside the Nichols’ home, causing the windows to shatter (that is how close it was) and very nearly killed Daniel who was just an infant. Shattered glass littered his crib where he slept and the room he was in, however he was not even scratched and slept through the incident. This was not the first time dynamite had been used at their home or at the church but it was the first time it came very close to injuring or killing someone. The public harassment at church, threatening phone calls and letters, home invasions, gunshots fired at the home while they slept and yet another bombing should have caused the Nichols to pack up and leave, but they chose to stay based on their firm belief in God. This decision would later cost Rebecca and Daniel their parents when they were still young children.

At the beginning of this review I quoted “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” This was what Mr. Nichols preached to his daughter, and this was the reason that he did not leave. He also could have taken matters into his own hands and delivered his own justice. Robert Nichols was 6’3″ tall, muscular and an ex-Navy fighter and could easily have beaten the elderly Mr. Watts physically if he chose to. Instead, he stayed and prayed that the Lord would take care of them and that eventually Mr. Watts would see the error of his ways. As this decision would cost him his life, it would be up to Rebecca to forgive Mr. Watts when he did finally repent and ask for forgiveness.

The events related in this book are unbelievable, and it amazes me that this could have happened anywhere, let alone in a small town in America in the 1970’s. Mr. Watts was eventually prosecuted and sent to prison, however the damage that he inflicted on a young family could never be repaired by a jail sentence. Rebecca and Daniel have to be two of the strongest, most resilient, forgiving people I have ever heard or read about. Their story will bring you joy at times and make you cry at other times. It will also give you hope that anything can be overcome through faith and forgiveness. That is the message that Rebecca has passed on from her father – faith in God and forgiveness of others (and yourself) will allow you to lead a blessed, spiritual life. Had Rebecca carried the bitterness toward Mr. Watts that she must have felt, or even blamed her father for not leaving when they had every reason and plenty of opportunity to move on, her life could have been vastly different.

I would definitely recommend this book. Whenever you are upset with someone for some perceived slight they have caused you, try to remember Rebecca and her family. Life is not always smooth sailing and others will never do exactly what we wish and hope that they would do. Also remember what Jesus said when he was being crucified “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.”

Laughter and love,

Rick Fess

“The Devil in Pew Number Seven” Rebecca Nichols Alonzo Tyndale House Publishers Inc. http://www.tyndale.com

#Devil #Pew #Number #True #Story

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