YOU know the kind of thing. I mean, you'll have seen it on TV or in films.

A church congregation at fever pitch. On stage, there's a preacher insistently declaring we should repent our sins, that we will not let the Devil win and God is within us. Flanked by two electric guitars, the preacher, sweating, trembling, incants, ‘Bring the spirit, bring the spirit into this place!’.

At the front of the stage, the congregation are staring up adoringly at him, their palms held aloft. Some weep, some are laughing hysterically, many are speaking in a nonsense language of tongues. Behind them stand a line of the church's larger men, like bouncers lining a dancefloor, who step forward expertly to catch limp, sometimes convulsing bodies, as the ‘spirit takes them’. They lay them gently down the pink carpet where the bodies continue to laugh, cry, beg repeatedly for forgiveness.

If you've seen this on TV, I bet you’re thinking of a sweltering tent somewhere in southern America. Maybe, in your mind’s eye, the preacher wears cowboy boots and a white Stetson hat. I'm sure you’re not thinking about a Motherwell council estate.

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I am 14 and I am in that congregation, in a nondescript, squat red brick building surrounded by tower blocks in North Lanarkshire. I stand at the front of the stage, arms in the air like it's a rock concert, speaking in tongues, cry-laughing hysterically.

When it feels like it's too much, I allow my body to go limp and I’m caught by strong arms as I am ‘slain in the spirit’. Amen. God is good. Afterwards, I’ll have my first proper kiss on the steps of that church, with a boy called Rabb, both of us wearing matching Fruit Of The Loom jumpers, nervously reminding myself to move my head enough.

It's 1994 and The Toronto Blessing, a charismatic Christian movement started in a church by Toronto airport, has swept through the western Christian world. In the same way, the Alpha courses are growing rapidly from a handful in the early nineties to over 2500 by 1995.

It’s a time of ‘What Would Jesus Do’ wristbands, and Bible verse cards brought from the Glo Centre in Motherwell slotted into our neon, velcro-fastening wallets and running around train stations drunk on Buckfast telling anyone who’d listen that, ‘Jesus loves you.’ The real miracle is that we didn't get battered.

Our church was a ‘cool’ church with an in-house band, dancing in the aisles and a very active youth group targeting kids like me from the poorest areas with the toughest home lives.

But prayer, ice-skating trips to the Time Capsule and unlimited custard creams weren't enough to save us from the looming harsh realities of our lack of opportunities. Outside the church, there was the usual going on, drugs on tick bought from guys in too hot living rooms, petrol-fluid booze and risky teenage sex resulting in a few equally teenage pregnancies.

Given the very earthly hardships that many of us were coming from, on the poorest streets of the poorest neighbourhoods, it's not hard to see what was appealing about the charismatic Christian movement with its release of laughter and tears, an edge of madness, some much-needed consistency and the hope that perhaps something bigger than us was in control of our fate.

This wasn’t just happening in Motherwell either. In the mid-90s The Toronto Blessing movement encompassed congregations in Inverness, Aberdeen and many other Scottish and UK towns. But it was divisive and not unlike the teen years, it flared up bright but burned out fast.

When I returned to that church in my thirties, to research my book Lowborn, I found that the charismatic revival aspects had largely faded away to something gentler and more recognisable as a Scottish church service. Though there were still custard creams and orange squash.

The Herald: The Toronto Blessing, a charismatic 90s Evangelical fad, found their influence in congregations in Motherwell, Inverness, Aberdeen and other towns and cities in ScotlandThe Toronto Blessing, a charismatic 90s Evangelical fad, found their influence in congregations in Motherwell, Inverness, Aberdeen and other towns and cities in Scotland (Image: Newsquest)

If I'm being charitable, and as a good former-Christian I’m apt to be, I do think the elders of that church were well-intentioned. But it seems as vulnerable young people we could have done without the tambourines and the three-hour repentance sessions.

That if they had truly been led to that council estate for any reason, they might have served God, whatever his incarnation, by blessing us with alleviation from the poverty trap that we found ourselves in.

I live 20 minutes drive from that church now. Occasionally from nowhere, I still find myself humming one of their soft rock hymns while I do the washing up. I still meet up with my best friend from that time too. Twenty-eight years after we spoke in tongues together, we meet to see a gig or grab a pizza.

Inevitably at some point in our nights out, we look across the table at each other with bewildered expressions and say, ‘I still can't believe we did that. I can't believe that happened. It’s mental.’ Like a cult survivors group of two but with candlelight and white wine rather than folding chairs and stale coffee.

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Thing is, me and her, indeed many of the young people who were enticed into that church were genuinely seeking. We wanted better for ourselves. We wanted the world we were in to be better. The real sin is, eventually, we did realise that there was something bigger than us deciding our fate and it was a crushing disappointment when we finally understood it was systemic inequality and generational poverty.

Still, we kept our idealism for the most part. My friend has worked on the frontline of poverty in her local community for 12 years. I spent a decade working for charities myself before becoming a writer focused on poverty and deconstructing the myth of social mobility.

When I was 14 I looked for God on the streets of Motherwell. I tried to conjure him with 20/20 MD, skunk and speed and, when I eventually realised no God would save me, I was lucky enough to save myself.

I only wish all the kids I grew up with had been able to do the same.

Kerry Hudson is an award-winning author