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Spiritualists reject traditional understandings of death, heaven and hell, proposing instead an infinite number of souls in constant transition and an eternal open-door policy regarding redemption. They also embrace concepts such as infinite intelligence, natural law, the Golden Rule, moral responsibility, healing and prophecy.
Personal prophecies, Charlotte clarifies, differ from psychic readings and fortune-telling.
"We believe in Jesus, and we have songs and prayers," Charlotte explains. "It's regular Christianity with a little extra added.
"A lot of people run from one to the other getting readings and stop when they get what they want to hear," Charlotte continues. "They're caught up in material matters. Well, guides help them with the spiritual stuff. The messages might not be the ones they were wanting. It's just a short message from spirit based on whatever they want you to know. When I get a message, I don't remember it later. Sometimes someone will tell me, 'I don't know if I really understood that,' and I'll have them tell me what it was and try to get back into that vibration."
Such talents require training. Charlotte became involved in spiritualism in 1969, after her mother and sister led her to the church. (Her sister dropped out immediately after getting married; her mother stopped attending when her health declined.) She took classes at Sancta Sophia Seminary in Oklahoma, Sunset Camp in Kansas, and Kansas City's Church of Inner Faith and Unity Village, ultimately earning ordination in 1981 from Camp Chesterfield in Indiana. The seminary classes, organized like college courses, often required a weeklong vacation from work.
Though specialized instruction is required to hone one's intuition, Charlotte says anyone can become an effective medium.
"Everybody's got that gift," she insists. "A lot of us covered it up when we were children. Imaginary friends are not imaginary. We should encourage the little ones. Adults, don't tell them it's not real, because it is. And religion is another obstacle, because people have been told so many times that [spiritualism] is the work of the devil."
Henry's first experience with the spirit world came when he was watching television. His mother's face appeared on the screen during an episode of One Day at a Time. Intrigued, he joined the church in 1980.
"She sees more spirits than I do," Henry says. "Mine is more feeling. I feel them around me daily, and I try to put that sense into words."
Charlotte says that soon before running into Henry at a marriage in Mexico, Missouri, she received the message that she would meet someone who was not a spiritualist but would be receptive to it. Years later, she received another message that she initially rejected, one that predicted she would assume operations of the Ethelaine Chapel. At the time, the Rev. Dora Hendrix, head chaplain since the early '70s, was in control.
"I said, 'Oh, I'd never take it away from Dora,'" Charlotte recalls. "But you just never know how long these things will take to come to fruition."
When Hendrix retired in 1992, Charlotte accepted the position. She officially took over the church in October 1993. She received another message, which has not yet come to pass, about this new responsibility toughening her up.
"I'm still not very tough," she says. "I'm just more understanding. I've seen a lot."
During her years in the church, Charlotte has watched the size of the congregation fluctuate considerably, from a flock of thirty at its peak to its current trickle of three or four worshippers.