Source : 30/09/1982 Northampton Chronicle and Echo
I am a present completing some doctoral research in Church history at Oxford, in the course of which I have been looking into the pedigree of Christian communities with all things in common, in which line stands the Jesus Fellowship, with which I have been acquainted for some six or seven years.
Where I to summarise my findings, I would say that historically speaking, Bugbrooke is by no means exceptional; indeed I would venture to suggest that, had the Jesus Fellowship existed in any of the previous centuries, it would have raised few eyebrows.
The concept of a common life has been central to Christianity since Pentecost, though its application has varied according to the variable factors of the age, the political climate etc. It is true that not all churches by any means lived out this principle by sharing all things in common, but there have always been some who did and who saw in it the purest and truest way of living out the new life which the Saviour brought.
Secondly, such groups have always been maligned and suspected of any number of abuses. The early Church reputedly ate babies, indulged in orgies and plotted to overthrow law and order; monasteries have always been suspected of housing naughty nuns; and so it goes on.
Finally, and most importantly, I would point out that what groups like Bugbrooke are trying to do is to obey to the best of their ability the commands of Jesus himself, who after all was also called mad and demonised, who made it clear that his message would split people into two opposing camps, sometimes even dividing families, and who told his followers quite clearly that they were no longer citizens of this present world and so they should be separate from it. Therefore can we, in all fairness, seek to criticise anyone for obeying Jesus? Ought we not first to criticise Jesus himself for saying what he did?
To conclude with a personal account: as is the experience of many in the Fellowship, at the time of my first involvement in 1975, my parents reacted with an understandable fear of the unknown. They feared I was being drawn into a cult and it is true to say that for several months life was very difficult on both sides. Over the years, however, they have come not only to accept but even commend my involvement. They visit regularly (and my wife and I visit them) and of late are under-going something of a Christian awakening themselves. They tell me that their initial fears were that I would never get married or pursue higher studies. Well, I have done both! 'They' let me! And my parents are happy.
St Edmund's Hall, Oxford