Jesus people, loving people

The Jesus People of Bugbrooke

[Source: Northampton Chronicle & Echo Published: Thursday, 24 April, 1980]

They meet in the Baptist Church – and for some it has meant an end to drugs and violence by Yvonne Roberts.

Dumbo the elephant decorates the blackboard; second-hand furniture fills the room and a middle-aged Sunday School-type teacher is positioned at the piano when suddenly the talk stops, a guitar starts up, tambourines join in and the Jesus Movement of Bugbrooke takes voice.

And from that point, any connection with the Established Church, whether one regards it as living or dead, ends.

The people who meet each night from Wednesday to Sunday at Bugbrooke Baptist Church range in age from the early teens to late twenties, and in size from a group of 40 to as many as 130.

Their meeting is revivalist with speaking in tongues. Jesus is the focus and the message is uncomplicated by dogma.

Religion for them is seen visually in the shaking of hands, the "smile" stickers and the "Jesus Loves You" slogans; and it is community based.

It means friendship, an end to loneliness for some who previously adopted the derelict houses and steps of All Saints' Church, Northampton as their base and others who turned off routine and turned on to speed, LSD and, in some cases, "Big H" – heroin.

Noel Stanton, minister of Bugbrooke for 15 years, opened the church up to the concept of the Jesus Movement three years ago, with the support of the established fellowship.

Only a handful of young people – came at first, but in the last few months the numbers have increased rapidly. This increase perhaps says as much for the vacuum in the believers' lives before their "baptism in the spirit" as it does for the power of the non-institutional religious message.

A Northampton boy of 14 with a crucifix inked on his hand: "I used to go around with a couple of mates shop-lifting, breaking meters open, that sort of thing. Then I took acid and speed and sleepers. My mum and dad were going to put me in care, but I came over here for a laugh and somebody came up and said 'Jesus loves you.'

Heroin

"I stayed and now my friends take the micky out of me but I don't mind. Some boys at school were going to bang this Pakistani, but I told them not to and I sat next to him and said: Jesus loves you, even if no-one else does. I wouldn't have bothered before."

A boy of 18 who had been on heroin for nine months, lost his job and was arrested for smoking marijuana: "I was bored in a midnight movie and someone offered me heroin and I took it. I was going to be careful, but I ended up fixing once, sometimes twice a day.

"We used to come over to Bugbrooke for a laugh and then they invited us to stay last Easter. We did and brought some joints and fixes to get us through, but on Easter Sunday I just decided I wasn't going to bother with drugs anymore.

"I had a cold turkey (withdrawal symptoms) for three days but everywhere I went there were people from the Fellowship to help me. I haven't taken anything since. Jesus provides a reality. You don't need escapism, but sometimes it is hard.

'A buzz'

"I get just as much of a buzz being a Jesus person as I did on H. Today, most young people are looking for something that'll turn them on inside and make them feel permanently good – but they don't give the real Jesus trip a chance. At least now, I'm outer-directed not inward looking."

Ex-president of a Hell's Angel chapter, mid-20's with a suspended prison sentence for violence originally came to a meeting to "bust somebody's head in."

"We used to carry 12-bore shot-guns in the Chapter and I really enjoyed violence for its own sake. It ruined my marriage but I didn't care.

"I came over here and created a disturbance during a meeting, but by the end of the evening, I really felt that I'd found some sort of truth. People were happy. I didn't know what was happening really," but that same evening I took off my colours and broke my stick in two. I'd used the stick to bash people's heads in, it was notched for every time I used it.

Hell's Angels

"By the rules of the Hell's Angels, I'm still a member and the rest of the Chapter don't really believe that I've changed. But I know I have. I still get violent reactions, but they're more controlled now.

"I've seen dogs being torn apart for our rituals, and I wonder now why we did it."

Not all the Jesus people have such graphic backgrounds to their conversion, but those who do not have their personal miracles, draw strength from their peers.

They quote:

A heroin addict of 16 months' standing was baptised and successfully came off the drug (although he he had failed before with medical help). But his arms – ulcerated and swollen – were giving him trouble.

The Fellowship prayed, they say, and overnight, his arms were healed. Again, a Satanist attended a meeting to disrupt it with the help of the occult. Instead, he fell into a trance and has now joined the group.

Permanent

Proof perhaps. But is it all stickers and spontaneous spiritual combustion – or a more permanent commitment? The Fellowship think it is the latter and their work seems to affirm it.

Every Thursday they have a Bible study class, Friday a God Squad preaches to an often oblivious Northampton and there are now plans to set up a hostel for a dozen homeless boys.

At present, The Manse, Noel Stanton's home, doubles as a temporary home for emergency cases. A meal and somewhere to sleep, serve as a stopgap measure while parents, in some cases, are contacted or more permanent arrangements made. But a hostel is needed.

Already, in one Sunday's collection alone, £600 was raised, but a lot more is required before a Housing Association can be formed and property bought.

Mr. Stanton is unperturbed by the problem "Jesus will provide," he says. And it's very easy to believe him.

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