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SPECIAL REPORT


'THEY CALLED ME JUDAS WHEN I LEFT'


Source : 10/10/1984 Northampton Chronicle and Echo

For Five years while he was a member of the Jesus Fellowship, a man harboured thoughts of love for another community member he met when they worked together on the farm at Bugbrooke.

But the strict rules of the community meant he could not tell her directly of his feelings for her.

Everything had to be done through Elders of the community who made sure that the rituals of courtship were observed.

Finally, the girl was told of the man's interest in her and was asked if she wanted to begin a relationship with him that would eventually lead to marriage.

She declined, and it was an answer that brought the man's world crashing down on him.

'I was in constant turmoil because I could not speak to her on personal matters. I even went to Noel Stanton himself and told him of my very strong feelings for the girl. But all the time I was told to wait a little longer,' said the man.

It was hardly surprising then that the man began to look closely at his involvement with the community and it all started a chain of events that eventually led to him breaking his ties with the Jesus Fellowship.

For the first time, the man began to question his own involvement, and when Mr. Stanton started to change the style of worship in an attempt to expand the community, the break was brought even closer.

He said people turned against him and there was 'tremendous pressure' on him to conform.

'If anyone steps out of line they are subjected to all kinds of pressure because Noel Stanton does not like his authority questioned,' he alleged.

'I was hammered from all sides because I had to be brought to heel. My room-mate had been told I was in rebellion against God and almost everyone had rejected me.'

The room-mate said the man was not really rejected, but things became tense because of his attitude. It was not a question of Mr. Stanton's authority but of the acceptance of the Church's standards and vision.

In a year, the man had finally severed his ties with the community - but not before he had been subjected to what he describes as more intense pressure and had been labelled 'Judas Iscariot' for wanting to leave.

He is now 28 and the nightmare journey for him started in the summer of 1975 when he was recovering from an attack of hepatitis at his home in Leicester.

'There had been a television programme about the community and my cousin and I went down to Bugbrooke to see what it was all about,' he said.

He was then 19 and admits to being at an 'impressionable' age, so impressionable it seems that he immediately agreed to stay at Bugbrooke for two weeks. He eventually joined the community and moved into a house in Northampton owned by them.

'They made me get a job at a factory in town and all my wages went to them. I was then starting to rely more and more on the community' said the man. Even after such a short period he felt 'trapped'.

So why did he join in the first instance? 'Basically I am an idealist and the Jesus Fellowship seemed to offer something to me,' he said.

After more than a year of working in the factory, the man was sacked by the firm. 'It did not seem to please the community leaders but I was just not suited to the job. Then I started fulltime as a labourer on the community farm and enjoyed the work more,' added the man.

The work on the farm brought him into increasingly close contact with Mr. Stanton - and into conflict with him over the running of the farm.

It was while he was on the farm that the man met and fell in love with the girl he wanted to marry - and the chain of events which was to lead to him leaving the community was firmly in motion.

'I was in my room once when Noel Stanton came and talked to me and said he could not understand why I wanted to leave.'

'He told me he would make sure that no one was unkind to me again and everything was fine for a couple of weeks.

'I took over responsibility on the farm again and everything was OK until Noel came into the office one day and started shouting about some farm work. I was prepared to be shouted at but not to bow down - and soon everyone had turned against me again.

In the end, the man put his personal belongings into a car belonging to the community, drove to Leicester where his brother lived, brought the car back and then hitched to Leicester. Then he flew to Denmark to see a friend he had met when he visited the community.

There were a number of lengthy phone conversations while he was there and his friend was involved in some of them. 'They warned him about me, saying I was Judas Iscariot,' claimed the man.

The man did return to the community but said he was subjected to more 'pressure' and at one point, he claimed, Mr. Stanton said he was 'in rebellion.'

On his last day with the community, he again talked to Mr. Stanton, who, he claimed, told him he should get in touch with the community Relief Fund although anything he received would be out of the generosity of their hearts.

So the man took a community car and drove to Leicester - and the car was collected the following day. He did receive 600.

Mr. Hawker said: 'Much of the mans story is a personal attack on Mr. Stanton. Some of the conversations he alleges did not occur in the form reported. It is a warped account revealing a string of personal grievances.'

'It seems his bitterness originated when he was turned down by a girl. He ought to have accepted the simple fact that she was not interested in him. The strict rules of the community are simply to ensure that flirtation and immorality do not occur.'

'His attitude towards the community is, furthermore, exceptional.'