Source : 03/09/1995 Sunday Telegraph
Nearly 1,000 men who feel battered by the feminist movement will leave their women behind later this month and gather for a day of evangelical worship and brotherhood in a Northampton school hall.
Many of these men feel intimidated by the increasing power of women which has made them feel inadequate in the pew, the office and the home.
The meeting, called 'Men Alive For God' is inspired by the American evangelical movement and asserts man's role as a leader in the Church and the family.
The day includes seminars on 'Soul-healing and masculinity' and 'Your part is reaping the harvest' as well as charismatic rally set to rock music and disco lights.
Although almost identical to its intentions to the American movement, the men's day is organised independently by the Jesus Fellowship of the Baptist Church and tailors its programme to a more reserved British congregation.
While the American Promise Keepers - funded by a football coach from Colorado - will fill huge sports stadiums in the states, the Jesus Fellowship divides the men, aged between 15 and 70 into small intimate groups for discussions which deal with sexual temptation alcoholism and faith.
'Not many men have found a role in the Church, seeing it as a woman's place. Young men especially feel unsure where they fit in.' says a minister with the Fellowship. 'We hope the day will help them find direction.' - 'Many men think it weak to show their feelings in mixed company and they gain strength from being together with men.'
In contrast, Promise Keepers rely on strength in numbers. In St Petersberg, Florida, last week 50,000 men held hands in a sports stadium and prayed that they would be good husbands and fathers and not 'feminised males' who have abandoned all leadership in the family.
The Jesus Fellowship sees unemployment and the women's movement as two causes for the crisis of confidence among men. Ian Callard, a Fellowship leader in Sheffield, said the closure of mines and steelworks had robbed thousands of men of their role as breadwinner.
One who believes he has gained from all-male worship is an unemployed father of five from Blackpool, who went to a similar Jesus Fellowship meeting last year after he heard he was losing his job as a factory manager.
'I did not find it easy to share my anxieties with my family. I felt I had to be positive in front of them.' He said. 'Being in an all-male group helped me get through the most difficult time in my life when i felt impotent, as if everything was out of my control.'
The 'Men Alive' meetings, which started for the Jesus Fellowship four years ago when the number of male members was dwindling, have grown to include men of all denominations.
Among them on September 30, will be the Rev James Alexander, an Anglican vicar from Oakington, Cambs, who voted against women priests and strongly believes in man's role as head of household and leader in Church. 'All male gatherings have a particular flavour,' he said. 'The meetings affirm men as men. They reflect the Bible, which says that overall leadership is male.'
Inspired by the Jesus Fellowship, the Rev Alexander has started his own men-only early-morning prayer meetings at his parish church of St Andrew's and he advises couples before marriage to know their roles like 'positions in a football match'. 'Men's leadership is not about domination and control.' He said. 'It's about servant-heartedness and allowing women to fulfil their potential.'
The response from Christina Rees, former spokeswoman for the Movement for the Ordination of Women and a member of the General Synod of the Church of England, is one of cautious approval. 'The all-men meetings seem to be answering a need and I'm all for men wanting more integrity in their lives,' she said. 'So long as it does not reinforce some macho hierarchy.'
No women will be allowed near Spinny Hill Hall on September 30 while the men, accompanied by boisterous electrical guitar, sing 'My God, How Wonderful Thou Art'. Jesus Fellowship's intention is not to have them burn their Y-fronts in defiance, but returning home proud to be boys.