This history was compiled through interviews and research from news articles since I was not around in the 1970’s. In the 1960’s, Jack Hickman went to seminary in Minnesota where he met Jo. H. and D. S. Jack was a smart, charismatic man and likely for those reasons Jo. and D. were convinced to follow him to Long Island. Jack and Jo. were placed as pastors at St. John’s Lutheran Church and D. was placed at Christ Church of East Meadow that eventually merged with St. John’s after the fallout with the Lutherans.
In Long Island, Jack was the youth minister. Jo. was considered to be a more traditional pastor and he catered to the older crowd that was not up for Jack’s bizarre and flamboyant sermons.
Jack had one service on Sundays for the crowd that was younger and in many cases on drugs (not necessarily at the services). This was the 1970’s after all. Our parents did copious amounts of drugs. Marijuana, LSD, psilocybin mushrooms, cocaine, heroine, alcohol, pharmaceuticals, tobacco. Not all of the kids in that period were using, but many of them did. Jack spent almost all of his time with these teenagers. “The youth.” Sometimes he would help some of them skip school so they could hang out together. He never helped the girls skip school though. Pastor Jack, or PJ as the teenagers called him, only helped teenage boys skip school so they could be together.
Jack’s brand of ranting sermons began to draw very large crowds for a church in the 70’s. According to some, Jack’s service drew crowds that not only filled up all of the seats. Many people that showed up couldn’t find seats and they stood through the whole service. There are claims from some of the current cult members that the crowds were upwards of one thousand people. I think this is a gross exaggeration. I don’t believe that St. John’s had the capacity to hold that many people.
He preached a form of Charismatic Christianity for a while. Holy rolling, speaking in tongues, casting out demons. St. John’s was like a Pentecostal church, where Jack claimed to have divine powers. This sort of thing brought in loads of money and created a cult following around Jack.
Around this time Jack met a teenage boy who we will refer to as L. He was a handsome, Hispanic boy (I’m sure most of you know where this is going). L. quickly became Jack’s protégé. Jack declared that he and L. were prophet’s of God and that the world was going to be facing end times soon.
He said demons would be possessing church goers since we were entering the tribulation period where God would punish humanity. According to Jack, the brunt of Satan’s wrath would be directed at his followers and a plague of demons would attack them to test Jack’s followers, to see who was righteous and who was wicked. Due to the power of suggestion (our parents were Charismatic Christians after all and Charismatic Christianity is based on the power of suggestion and hypnotic trance according to studies by psychologists), people were not just speaking in tongues anymore, they believed that evil spirits were talking through them too.
Jack and L. began conducting exorcisms en masse. This brought in even more money. Think about it, if you believed you were being attacked by evil spirits and only these two men stood between you and the devil, you would likely start giving up 10% of your income (Jack called it tithe) to the prophet too.
Around this time, Hickman began to move his followers away from holy rollers into Orthodox Jews. He attempted to merge the groups New Testament Pentecostal beliefs with literal interpretations of the Hebrew Scriptures. Concerned people began comparing his cult to Jews for Jesus since Jack began to have his group actively go after converting Jews to his twisted faith.
The Jews that he was able to ensnare were mostly teenagers. His best proselytizers were teenage boys who became his inner circle and were entrusted with secret teachings.
The Lutheran church had been receiving alarming reports for a while and they stepped in. Jack, Jo., and D. were defrocked and the Lutherans stated that the group had devolved into a dangerous cult that used severe manipulation to control its members.
Soon after, Jack began broadening his inner circle, where sexual abuse and violence became widespread.