Jesus people, loving people

John the Dippers legacy

[Source: Northampton Chronicle & Echo Published: Monday, 21 February, 2005]

History of Bugbrooke chapel

A village is celebrating 200 years of community, worship and history this year as Bugbrooke Baptist Church marks its bicentenary

The chapel, which was formed in 1805, began life as a convenient place of worship for nearby villagers.

Bugbrooke village correspondent John Curtis said the church was started by a breakaway group of worshippers who were attending College Street Chapel in Northampton.

“The history goes back to 1780, when two villagers called Thomas Turland and William Brown were both baptised in the River Nene in Northampton” he said.

“They were Bugbrooke people and they built up a group of dissenters, from here and Kislingbury, because they wanted their own place of worship in the village.”

“I should imagine they were fed up with walking into Northampton every week.”

Permission for a new building was finally granted in 1805, and the first meeting of the new congregation took place in August, two months before the battle of Trafalgar.

But the chapel took until 1808 to finish, at a cost of £600, and Mr Curtis said that, until it was completed, the congregation used to meet in a local farm house in Church Lane owned by a Mr Atterbury.

“While they were waiting for the chapel to be built they used to baptise in the local brook at the end of his paddock,” he explained.

“The first minister was a chap called John Wheeler, who was working in the village as a candle maker, and he soon got the nick name “John the Dipper” because at the time they used to dip the candles in wax, and also because he dipped people in the baptism pool!

“John was the minister of the chapel for over 30 years, and in that time more than 100 members joined. In the early days the chapel passed a strong resolution against slavery and 12 members emigrated to America.”

By 1851, there were 200 adults and 60 children who were members.

One hundred later, Bugbrooke Baptist Church would enter and new phase of life as the place where the Jesus Fellowship Church was first formed.

Founder Noel Stanton, who was born in 1926 in Bedfordshire, was a lay preacher who was given pastoral charge over the congregation at Bugbrooke Baptist Church in 1957.

In 1969, he began to speak in tongues, and decided to change the church, focusing on attracting younger members.

Soon, as an offshoot of the Pentecostal movement, The Jesus Fellowship was formed, as a Christian Community and a member of the Baptist and Evangelical Church Bodies.

Within the first few years the idea of communal living was growing and in 1974 Bugbrooke hall was purchased. Renamed as “New Creation Hall”, it became the first communal house of fellowship. Several members moved in, and most began donating to the communal purse.

Drawn by the lively revival services, young Christians began flocking to Bugbrooke to join the newly founded communes appearing around the area, where followers lived as one large extended family.

In 1986 the Jesus Fellowship resigned from the Baptist and Evangelical Churches alliances, although they later rejoined in 1999.

Not long after, on April 18, 1987, Noel Stanton launched the “Jesus Army” as the outreach and evangelising arm of the fellowship.

The new name brought the fellowship a new public image with camouflage jackets and fluorescent red crosses becoming the uniform for evangelising members, and double-decker buses were brightly painted in the new Jesus Army colours.

The Jesus Army has now expanded into many towns, cities and villages around the country but in all began in the 200-year-old Bugbrooke Baptist Church.

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