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Escaping Eden: life after the Plymouth Brethren

How a conservative Christian sect went from one man in 1820s Ireland to a global church.

By Pippa Bailey

For those who leave the ultra-conservative Christian sect, separation comes at great personal cost.

The New Statesman’s assistant editor Pippa Bailey had always been curious about the Plymouth Brethren, ever since discovering that her maternal grandparents had left the group in the 1960s. What might her life have been like if they stayed? Who were the cousins separated by a doctrine of isolation from non-Brethren “worldlies”?

In this week’s deeply reported and moving magazine cover story, Pippa tells the story of the breakaway group, from its origins in 1820s Ireland to its modern-day incarnation as a global church and effective lobbyist. She speaks to former members, many of whom mourn the loss of family and friends to an organisation they consider repressive. It’s a fascinating journey, even if, as Pippa writes, her grandmother has no interest in resurfacing the past: “After all, she says, it’s all part of the Lord’s plan, and He does not test us more than we can bear.”

This article originally appeared in the 25-31 August issue of the New Statesman; you can read the text version here.

Written and read by Pippa Bailey.

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If you enjoyed this episode, you might also enjoy How to build a language: inside the Oxford English Dictionary, by Pippa Bailey, or our reported feature by Stuart McGurk, A year inside GB News.

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