Jesus people, loving people

The birth of a new religion

[Source: Northampton Chronicle & Echo Published: Monday, 7 January, 2008. By Anna Brosnan]

Most people local to Northampton will have seen the prominent Jesus Army centre housed in the old Cannon cinema building on the corner of The Mounts.

But not everyone will have realised that this new religious movement – which has now spread across the country-was born in Northamptonshire, back in 1969.

Started in Bugbrooke by Baptist pastor Noel Stanton as a ‘new religious movement’, it grew; and less than 40 years later there are now about 2,500 church members; hundreds of these living in community houses across the UK.

Striking out on the controversial path of establishing common purses and a central fund; through which members share their wealth, the Jesus Fellowship Church has attracted some criticism.

But over the years it has also earned a name for itself as a body which works to help people with troubled backgrounds such as poverty or homelessness.

Former Chronicle & Echo photographer John Angerson has now published a book of photographs; a collection formed through 20 years of visiting the Jesus Army’s communal houses and other sites in the country.

The 38-year-old, who how works as a freelance photographer in London, said he started taking the series of photographs as part of a project for the graphic design course he was taking at Nene College in 1987.

He said: “I would go three or four times a year. I got a job at the Chron and every time a Jesus Army story came up I would go. I always found them a very interesting group of people. It is fascinating to see a community living with shared housing and shared wealth.”

He continued: “It is a great relief to have it published because I kind of went down some dead ends with it. A lot of publishers didn’t get it and didn’t understand. Particularly with religion, a lot of people are put off by it.”

During two decades of visits, Mr Angerson said the worship music was one of the major changes he had noticed in the life of the Jesus Army.

He said: “When the rave scene came in, their religious music had a real rave sound to it. Because they have got such a young membership, you go along and hear the music and are left thinking ‘that sounds like drum ‘n’ bass’.”

The book Love, Power, Sacrifice: Life with the Jesus Army is a series of photos capturing different aspects of life in the Jesus Army from the community in Bugbrooke and in the north of England.

MrAngerson said: “I have always been really careful not to make it too sensationalist. I wanted to capture the fact they are regular people. If you look hard at the images there is a lot of human interaction.”

The book can be purchased through the website or, for more information, contact Dewi Lewis Publishing on 0161 4429450.

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