Critics contend controversial encounter training uses manipulation and brainwashing techniques.

The new Momentus Training program challenges participants to examine their lives in ways they never would by sitting in a church pew.

Using closed-eye guided imagery and gut-wrenching exercises, the Santa Rosa, California-based training blends encounter group techniques with conservative Christian teachings.

Momentus, run by a for-profit corporation, has evoked strong criticism for its similarities with Lifespring, a New Age, human-potential group based in San Rafael, California. A yearlong controversy over Momentus has split one Santa Rosa church, prompted the opposition of several area pastors, and drawn the attention of the cultwatching group Christian Research Institute (CRI) in Irvine, California.

About 1,000 people, mostly charismatic and evangelical Christians, have taken the four-day training—which costs $300 per person—since it began last year. Supporters maintain Momentus has increased their love for God, saved marriages, inspired forgiveness, and been the impetus for 100 new Christian commitments.

Momentus founder

Daniel Tocchini, 37, is the creator of Momentus. He became a Christian in 1979 and worked as a Lifespring trainer from 1981 to 1986, leaving, he says, because Lifespring’s philosophy conflicted with his own religious beliefs.

Tocchini says Momentus is in tune with orthodox Christianity. Moreover, he says his training challenges people to examine their lives in a hands-on approach seldom used in church.

“People want intimate relationships,” Tocchini says. “When the church gets that, it’ll be vital again. Period. People want to be able to share the things inside them that are rotting them because they feel guilty.”

Some ...

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