His Community: Christ Covenant Ministries
“His Community” refers to a controversial religious group with roots in Kankakee County in the late 1970s. Sometime after moving to Vermont in 1979, the group changed its name to Christ Covenant Ministries.
In 1970 Alice Benoche and Lana Flora began a volunteer prayer group that met in Mrs. Benoche’s home. This prayer group, which was originally formed at St. Joseph parish in Bradley, later became known as His Community. Sometime between 1976 and 1978 the dynamics of the group began to move away from the traditional doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church. As these changes evolved, Benoche and Flora felt it was time to “turn it over to the men,” forming a five person ‘Headship’ consisting of the original two members (Mrs. Benoch and Mrs. Flora) and three men; David Mulligan, Jeff Dickman, and Kurt Falkehan. The now fundamentalist group attracted members from a number of other Christian denominations including Baptist, Methodist, Nazarene, and others. Along with the formation of the Headship, many other changes began to take place within the group.
One of the most significant changes in His Community was the adoption of a philosophy of group exclusiveness. Families, spouses, and friends who were not part of His Community began to see members withdrawing from outside relationships. Many family members and friends described the actions of His Community and its members as “brainwashing” and “cult-like”. In 1977, the Headship announced a “forbidden list” of persons that Community members could no longer associate with. This list included family, outsiders, and former members. By the time the group left the Kankakee area, it has become a strongly restrictive and reclusive organization.
The beliefs of His Community closely followed the Biblical Book of Revelations. Members believed the last days, outlined in Revelations, were fast approaching and the prophecy regarding the mark of the Beast was to come true in as soon as two years (about 1981). In order to avoid the mark of the Beast and its implications “that no man might buy or sell, save that had the mark, or the name of the Beast, or the number of his name…” ; His Community members believed they must escape to a place free of reliance on the outside world. The group believed it must be totally self-reliant in all areas of survival including food, clothing, and shelter.
In order to make this a reality, members began to gather money and supplies as well having members learn skills in all areas they would need for survival (ex. quilting and forging). In addition, members began selling possessions to acquire money. All of this activity began to point toward an exodus to a “new land”.
The extreme secrecy that the Community had adopted included closing Sunday church meetings to visitors in order to discuss the “new land”. Some members began to feel oppressed by the Headship and became increasingly alarmed by the group’s increasingly radical doctrines. Former members report a shift from a focus on the Lord to a cult of personality surrounding the person of David Mulligan. Former members began to fear the impending departure would mean total separation from children, spouses, and other family members.
The New Land
By July 1979 His Community had found a new home or “promised land” in Casey County, Kentucky. The land, located near Mintonville on Turkey Creek, was intended to house approximately 100 persons, including children. News reports from Casey County indicated that one church and several homes were being built on the property, which was purchased in the name of Grace Creek Christian Church. According to the Casey County News, which is published in Liberty (the county seat), in 1979 there was a group of approximately 15-20 young people working the ground and building a church on the land. The ‘promised land’ reportedly cost $85,000 and was approximately the size of a smaller than average sized farm in Illinois. It was learned that His Community was planning a self-supporting community with their own schools, similar to that of the Amish or Mennonite community. Headship member David Mulligan was in the process of becoming an ordained minister in Kentucky in the hopes that all Community members would arrive over a one-year timetable. The plan entailed members arriving gradually while helping in the preparations for additional members to join them. While in Kentucky, tensions began to mount between members there and non-Community family members left behind.
On December 16, 1979 a “Christmas Party” was held in Kankakee for children of His Community members who were living with non-member spouses. Parents waited for their children to be returned home from the party soon found the children were gone. Eighteen children disappeared from the Kankakee area that day. Some of the children were involved in custody hearings while others left behind a parent or siblings. At the time Community members fled the Kankakee area, those who had preceded them to Kentucky had also mysteriously disappeared. In both instances, evidence of an unplanned departure was apparent. Uneaten food, dirty dishes, unmade beds, and half-packed boxes of clothes were just some of the evidence left behind in Kankakee. In Kentucky, reports came in describing piles of new mattresses and stacks of unworn blue jeans being left behind. One local man lost his six children when his ex-wife took them and left with the Community. He traveled to Kentucky, determined to spend Christmas with his children, only to find the property deserted. The exodus had occurred though the ‘promised land’ had been deserted.
After His Community fled Kankakee, some of the members broke into smaller groups, although it is unknown if these groups are connected. While some of those abandoned in Kankakee never heard from family members again , others have received an occasional phone call, postcard. A few have returned home.
In 1989, Gerald Gromer, of Bourbonnais, found his two sons in Vermont after a decade long search. He had custody of the boys at the time his ex-wife left Illinois with His Community. The Gromer boys were discovered in Woodbury, Vermont, in a home purchased by the religious organization Christ Covenant Ministries. David Mulligan, the leader of His Community, now serves as the head of Christ Covenant Ministries. Other members have reportedly been seen in Wisconsin, but the location of many of the children taken in December 1979 remains a mystery.
In 1989, after the Gromer boys were discovered, David Mulligan was interviewed. He denied his organization was a cult after that accusation was made by religious deprogrammer Rick Ross. Mulligan said, “If we’re guilty of any crime, it’s that we’re devoutly Christian. We are no more cultish than the Methodists, the Pentecostals, the Catholics and the Lutherans." Several families in the Kankakee area disagree.
- "The children of His Community",The Daily Journal, December 2, 1984.
- “His Community: What Is It?” (part of His Community – Part 1), The Daily Journal, May 14, 1979.
- "Plans follow Book of Revelations”, The Daily Journal, May 14, 1979.
- "Revelations 13:17",The Holy Bible.
- “Kentucky ‘Promised Land’ Being Prepared”, The Daily Journal, July 31, 1979.
- “His Community – Five Years After They Vanished, Search Goes On”, The Daily Journal, December 2, 1984.
- "Children of His Community – Those Left Behind Are Tired and Disillusioned”, The Daily Journal, December 2, 1984.
- "Gromers Using Deprogrammer”, The Daily Journal, August 14, 1989.
- "Mulligan Says Covenant Ministries Is Not A Cult”, The Daily Journal, August 17, 1989.