Jesus people, loving people

Bugbrooke, where alleluias come bigger and noisier

[Source: TV Times Published: Saturday, 25 May, 1974]

Inside Television by Alex Coleman

When the Lord took hold of Bugbrooke it's possible He didn't know what He was starting.. Thames Television's splendid documentary to be shown next month, The Lord Took Hold of Bugbrooke, filmed over a non-stop stint of 16 days and sometimes nights, looks at the 2,000-strong village of that name in Northamptonshire and the impact on it of a fellowship of 300 enthusiastic, rock-bottom evangelists, sometimes unkindly referred to as Jesus freaks, led by Noel Stanton. For all of 30 years, Stanton was an ordinary minister. Then, four years ago, he received the Holy Spirit so that it tingled throughout his body.

Bugbrooke's fellowship is in a state of endless enjoyment which manages rather to rub up non-participants. Said the mother of one member (there are 60 from the village in the group): "You can't sing and pray and carry on all your life, not all your normal life.” But that is what they mean to do: singing, often in unknown tongues (see Acts, chapter 2, for further explanation), being baptised by total immersion in providentially warm water, crying alleluia at regular intervals and helping to reclaim drop-outs and drug addicts, which can't be bad.

But the fellowship is also noisy – "especially," said one villager, "in the summer, when you have all the windows open." And fiercely evangelical, which means adherents never let up asking anyone around: "Are you living out and out for Jesus?”

They also go witnessing and converting every Saturday in the streets of Northampton. (Of a group of amateur clergy he met on a sea voyage. Mark Twain once remarked: "There was a little difference of opinion between us – nothing more. They thought they could have saved Sodom and Gomorrah and I thought it would have been unwise to risk even money upon it.")

Making Bugbrooke was a curious experience for the 10 members of the film unit. They came to be embarrassed and stayed to admire. Frank Hodge, the cameraman, found himself singing along with the best of them after filming a few services. He says the hardest part of the job for him and the crew was to blend into the gatherings, both physically and emotionally; a good documentary calls for a meaningful response from its makers.

All that filming until midnight left the professionals frazzled; they were sore too, at not catching a casting out of devils, which does happen but didn't this trip. The whole experience of invasion by camera hardly dented the fellowship's ecstacies. "If there's anything standing between you and Jesus, get it dealt with," Stanton instructed his flock briskly. Noel Stanton it was who, with the consent of the fellowship and the go-ahead from the Lord, finally gave Thames permission to film. He had already turned down several TV companies' requests to make a documentary about the group.

Essentially, Bugbrooke is an examination of how average believers react to old-style Christianity. Certainly the fervour, the colour, hopped up emotions constantly bursting out of the nearby chapel into nearby ears must disturb worshippers accustomed to a more staid and clinical atmosphere. Rufus Frampton, a young and successful actor who gave up his career to go to Bugbrooke and become a carpenter ("Jesus," he says, "was a tremendous chippy") declares he now lives in a very narrow world, "because the wide part leads to destruction".

WordPress Lightbox