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Source : 10/05/1996 Northampton Chronicle and Echo

Leaders of the Northamptonshire-based Jesus Army will deny running a secretive cult in a TV documentary to be screened on Sunday night.

The Nether Heyford Christian commune opened its doors for a film crew from BBC's Everyman to lift the lid on everything from its recruitment drives and businesses to its fanatical celebrations.

The 50-minute documentary follows the fortunes of a group of young people offered the chance to swap their lives of homelessness and drug abuse for life in a commune and even celibacy.

But Jesus Fellowship elders deny that they are running a secretive cult. Founder Noel Stanton refused to be interviewed for the programme but read a prepared statement which said: 'We are an army of love and peace, and army that fights Satan and demons and wickedness.'

'We don't see ourselves as a cult. Certainly we do things with a lot of enthusiasm, but there is nothing that people would find offensive.'

The Jesus Fellowship owns a fleet of brightly-coloured vehicles, homes and a string of businesses with a turn over or 12 million a year.

The Army, the evangelical arm of the Fellowship, is filmed at its New Creation Farm headquarters in Nether Heyford, holding its weekly service in Northampton and baptising newcomers at its Bubrooke Chapel.

The movement provides a new 'family' for many drop-outs picked up on the streets, but stands accused of driving members away from their relatives in the world outside.

One new arrival, a former heroin addict told how he was desperate to see his girlfriend of eight years and two young children again, but had been advised by elders not to see them for the time being.

The programme, entitled Jesus Army - Brothers in Arms, can be seen on BBC1 at 10.25pm on Sunday May 12.

Fact File

The Fellowship, which includes the Army as its evangelising wing, was founded in Northampton by Noel Stanton in 1969.

The group's Northampton congregation now numbers 600.

The Fellowship owns businesses with an annual turnover of 12 million, including Goodness Foods, TBS Builders Merchants, Northampton's Mason Bullock solicitors the Whitefields Surgery in Camp Hill and a firm of plumbers and decorators.

It also boasts Skaino Services of Daventry, a garage which looks after the fleet of 150 brightly-coloured vehicles, including 50 mini-busses and five double-deckers.

Everyone who works in the businesses is a member of the Jesus Army and is paid a flat rate of 500 a month.

TV and Radio is banned at the Fellowship's community homes, although newspapers are allowed.