A distraught member of the new age evangelical movement led by charismatic preacher Billy Grantham (who died yesterday aged 99) has today told the Melbury Osmond Mercury's Chief New Age Evangelical Movement Reporter - Charlotte Church-Yard (aka Giver-An-Inch) - that his death has left her "bereft of direction and seriously adrift". Describing him as her "anchor and compass" and, in an improbably spontaneous continuance of the strained metaphor, her "rudder and her bowsprit", Ms Belle Botomme went on to say that he was her "idol ... her graven image ... her totem and her tentpole".*
* The latter is a reference to the actual (or sometimes metaphorical) tent or tabernacle under which cult members gathered with Mr Grantham at the centre supporting it singlehandedly with his massive "wand". Cult followers often describe their meetings as being "Intents"
Asked what had first attracted her to the cult leader, Ms Botomme insisted that it was "his spirituality" which was generally transmitted via his "amazing wand" which "grew in the spirit" and then became "a potent connection" between himself and those whose inner being he touched. Ms Botomme was evangelised by "Pastor" Grantham in 1967 shortly after her return from a visit to California where she freely confesses, she had lived the dissolute life of a hippy. "Pastor Graham taught me the fundamentals of a more ordered and obedient life", she explained, "and that it was wrong to spread myself so widely. After that I never communed with more than three other people at a time and always in the presence of Billy who watched over us, giving occasional instructions and ideas for new angles as he filmed our sessions for posterity and later solo-reflection. Watching them, he said, strengthened his arm and improved his hand-to-eye co-ordination".
Clutching at a photograph of one such session, Ms Bottomme trembled in recollection of the "intensity of our moments together". Adding only that Billy was "like a rock ... I mean really hard. Well he had to be didn't he given the bigotry and misunderstanding that surrounds all visionaries with the courage to pursue alternative lifestyles. As Billy always used to say to reluctant devotees: What do they know who only stand and watch?" "I will certainly miss him", she added in parting, "... there will always be a huge Billy-shaped hole which will never be filled again now he's gone".
Ms Bottom is 72 and walks with difficulty.
Ms Belle Botomme's photograph of a tabernacle meeting c 1967; a precious memento of times that can never be revisited now that the great man has passed.
Ms Botomme is to be seen [extreme right] with Pastor Grantham giving her "instruction".