This is the story of The Trees Community, a semi monastic Christian group that left NYC on a bus in 1971 on a journey of faith. When most of our money burned up the first night, we relied on God for all our needs and he provided! We traveled the United States growing in our new faith, finding a ministry in music and eventually becoming artists in residence at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Seven years, seven "stories" are woven into this amazing journey.

Love-Inn and an unusual exorcism

Love-Inn in Freeville, NY

The Eastern Sky
by Shishonee

The eastern sky is darkened.
The stars barely give out their light
The earth quivers beneath
The birds fly past in flocks

The hills are rimmed with a faint glow
The air all about lays as a blanket
The oceans are strangely still
The mountains remain distant in solitude

Who has heard this report
Who has called this moment from the beginning
Who will cast our lives on the rock
Who will gather the pieces together into one.

Ye creatures of the Lord await His voice
You the work of His hands to utter forth praise
For the day of the Lord approaches
Then shall all the nations hear it
The people of God shall sing at the shout.

Before the Coming Lord
At whose feet all creation shall fall down,
For He has made us
And we are His.

It was our very first day on the open road. Half of our money had just burned up in our pot bellied stove. Sobered and praying for God's help, we headed to a place called "Love-Inn" that had been recommended to us by some dear friends. All we knew was that it was a Christian community led by a man named Scott Ross, located at 1768 Dryden Road in Freeville, New York. We arrived toward early evening and elders Joe and Terry warmly invited us to join them for dinner and a tour. We handed them a steaming loaf of honey wheat bread Ariel had just baked in our bus oven as we travelled. After dinner, we joined them for a prayer meeting and finally, at midnight, we returned to the bus for evening prayers and bed.

For the next eight days we stayed at Love-Inn, worshiping, helping prepare meals, playing our music, and helping out at their coffee house. At first, things went smoothly and we were even invited to do a TV show with host Danny Taylor for a special Christian cable TV show called the “Upper Room.”

However, later that day, I was surprised when during prayers and discussions with their community we were told to "refrain from ministering and to constrain ourselves". What did that mean? We returned to the bus to pray about it. Little did I know this would be an exhortation we would hear over and over again in the coming months as we travelled throughout the body of the Christian Church.

That evening, I was in for an even bigger shock. At dinner, Ariel met “Laura”, a quiet, mousy 50 year old woman who was sitting dejectedly at a table. She started crying and Ariel gently ushered her into the bus where she explained her situation to us. As she spoke, a sense of urgency crept into her otherwise meak voice. She told us her twenty-year-old daughter was doing drugs and getting heavily into tarot cards and witchcraft. Lifting a gold chain from around her neck, she showed us a glimmering gold pendant that she reported was a satanic medal her daughter had given her. She fingered the medallion as she spoke, shyly explaining that ever since her daughter got into witchcraft she'd felt strangely vacant. She told us of having blackouts - odd spells of forgetfulness for hours at a time when she couldn’t recall anything that had happened…

It grew dark outside and David K. moved silently through the bus lighting the lanterns. Sitting in the flickering light, I shuddered as I listened to this woman, feeling oddly unnerved. Something didn’t seem quite right about her but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I felt anxious and uneasy. Finally, around 1:00 am, Laura left. Even though it was quite late, we sat together praying quietly for the next hour. I wasn't sure if I dozed off or not but suddenly I felt the whole bus sway and rock. My eyes flew open and I saw a huge dark figure climbing up the steps. Oh! I held my breath until I realized it was a tall black man with a broad smile and friendly expression. Climbing up the steps behind him was a heavyset, black woman. I let a sigh and relaxed. He smiled and introduced himself as John and his wife, Lucille. He was surprisingly cheerful for 2:30 in the morning and said the Holy Spirit had drawn him to the bus and that he felt a grieving of the spirit. He felt led by the Lord to minister to us. We prayed together, hugged them goodby and finally got to bed around 3 a.m.

The next morning, I struggled out of my sleeping bag, tired and groggy. After hot coffee, fresh bread and oatmeal, we were just cleaning up when there was a timid knock on the bus door. It was Laura, looking pale and upset. I invited her in for coffee and bread. A few minutes later, John and Lucille, once again drawn by the Holy Spirit came in and sat down. Almost immediately, Laura set down her coffee and whispered, “Can you help me?”

Shipen offered her a comfortable seat toward the middle of the bus. While he spoke with her, we gathered around. We laced our hands together and silently prayed as Shipen interceded, “Oh Lord Jesus, we come before you with our sister Laura and ask that you would bless us. That you would come and enter the heart of this your child and take complete charge over her mind, body and spirit. Raising his voice, Shipen cried out, "In the name of Jesus, I command you Satan to loosen your hold over her! You have no power over her any longer!"

At first, Laura slumped over. But then she began coughing and gagging as if trying to release something from deep inside. John and Lucille rose and laid hands on her. Shipen commanded forcefully: “In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior you cannot hold her any longer, Satan.” Gently, we layed our hands over her shoulders and head, hand over hand, as our prayers grew stronger and louder. Laura shook and coughed and when I looked over I was astonished. Her face was contorted and she kept coughing and sputtering as if something was blocking her air supply. Again Shipen cried out, “In the name of Jesus, I command you to name yourself!” In a strange, inhuman way, her lips began to move and trembling violently a low, guttural voice burst from her throat: “We are many! We are Legion!” and immediately she started coughing again.

Shipen and John laid hands around her face. Shipen commanded, “In the name of Jesus Christ and with the authority of God the Father I demand that you release your hold on her, Satan. Legion, you must leave this body that is the temple of the Lord. Her name is written in the book of life!” Gently, Shipen placed his hand over her throat and on her face. Just then a great force was released from her body. She coughed loudly and with a sudden jerk became completely relaxed. Whatever had been in her was gone. Almost immediately her countenance was transformed. Praise God! The air fairly rang with victory. I felt utterly amazed at what had just happened.

By this time it was already late in the evening and in the soft light of the kerosene lamps, Laura’s face seemed peaceful, her features had softened, her eyes were clear. She turned, sighed quietly, and thanked us for helping her. Exhausted, we trudged into Love Inn and ate dinner together. The funny thing for me was that I had been so caught up in the intensity of the experience, it was only later that I realized I’d been part of an exorcism! The way it had unfolded it seemed like the most natural thing in the world. (Some months later, I made the mistake of seeing the movie the Exorcist and was so disturbed by it that I could hardly sleep for weeks afterwards. Hollywood was much scarier than the real thing!)

After dinner we joined everyone for lively fellowship in the coffee house. At Love-Inn, both our groups shared prophecies during the prayer sessions. A young man named Danny had a curious prophetic message from the Lord, “I have heard your songs, I have heard your harp, but I haven’t seen you dance. Your pride I have broken and evil I have removed from my sight. I will show you my love for you. I have heard your songs, I have heard your harp, but I haven’t seen you dance.

Was this a message from the Lord asking us to celebrate the birth of a new soul? Or was the Lord asking us to lighten up a little and not be so serious? I was too tired to worry about it. After the service, totally drained, I went back to the bus and fell fast asleep.

The following day was Sunday and everyone had breakfast in the main building. Laura soon joined us smiling and looking relaxed and content. Around her neck hung a plain copper cross. After the meal there was another prayer service with readings from scripture. As we worshiped, people called out blessings or said whatever the Holy Spirit moved them to say. Then shy, quiet Laura started babbling almost nonsensical sounds. At first, I was worried that it was another demon or something, but Scott Ross leapt to his feet and cried out, “There’s nothing wrong! It’s the new, heavenly language!” Soon everyone was speaking in tongues in what seemed like a joyous river of foreign languages. This flowed into beautiful singing and dancing. In the chronicles I wrote:

"At this point everyone began to cry out with joy overflowing and the whole room was swept up by the Holy Spirit. Lifting our voices in praise, many were anointed and the sound of running, living waters was everywhere as tongues took over our speech. The heavenly music kept pouring through us until we reached a place of deep reverence and grace-filled worship. Eventually, a lone voice ever so softly started singing, “Dance, dance, where ever you may be… I am the Lord of the dance said He….”. We linked hands, joined together and the Lord showed us how to dance. Moving with us, the Lord of the dance united us in His Love. "

As we danced, I felt deeply moved by God’s grace. My whole being resonated with joyful exhilaration and thankfulness to God. The Lord is dancing with us! God you are so powerful! You can defeat Satan! You speak in wondrous and mysterious ways! I give my whole life over to you.

Throughout the day, powerful events continued with several individuals receiving anointing of the Holy Spirit. People moved from place to place ministering, praying, eating and talking, hugging, crying together or sharing. It was a day filled with unusual intensity. Before arriving at Love-Inn, we had received a prophecy about going into a place with living waters pouring out over all the people. That was exactly what had happened! God moves in mysterious ways!

At bible study the next morning, we realized it was time to move on. We said goodbye to Laura, John, Lucille and others and prayed for God’s direction for our next move. Lord, guide us in our every move. Let us know Your will in our lives. Help us follow Your way for us.

We drove to a tranquil spot at Sampson State Park on the eastern shore of Seneca Lake in New York. After dinner, we held a worship service and Shipen shared a beautiful new poem he had written that later became part of our daily worship service:

Let us not go to far from thy bosom beloved Jesus,
Let us not go to far from thy love,
Let thy word frame our world of rejoicing,
That the city of God is our home.

As the sun was setting, we brought out several instruments. Sitting together by the water, we played a long impromptu musical raga centered around the sitar, tamboura, harp and flute. It was one of those times I felt completely at peace. I prayed thanking God for letting me be a part of something so powerful and terrifying but so victorious. As I played the harp, the lyrical tones mixed with the delicate sounds of the other instruments. The music drifted out over the lake as the sky filled with ribbons of pink and purple against a canvas of turquoise, indigo and translucent yellow mirrored in the still water... That the city of God is our home.