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Source : 08/07/2000 Northampton Chronicle and Echo

The Jesus Fellowship has been associated with recruiting members from the deprived sections of society. Here our chief reporter continues his in-depth look into the religious sect, and talks to some of the people who have decided to dedicate their lives to the controversial Christian organisation.

Huddled on the pavement in the heart of London, A mans world had been turned upside down.

He had fled from his home city of Liverpool after his 18-year-old girlfriend died from a drug overdose in February last year.

Destitute in the capital, he did not know where his next meal was going to come from.

But he then found unexpected solace in the Jesus Fellowship. A member approached him while he was on the street, and took him into the fold.

He said: 'It is good to get back on your feet, and away from drink and drugs. I realised I could do better than that, but it was the Jesus Fellowship which helped me turn things around.'

'You cannot begin to imagine how much the Jesus Fellowship has helped me.'

The 21-year-old Liverpudlian is a classic example of the backbone of the Jesus Fellowship's members, who have been rescued as their life spiralled out of control.

A former heroin addict also from Liverpool, has been in and out of jail after narcotics turned him to a life of crime.

The 32-year-old father-of-two has been living with the Jesus Fellowship in Northampton for the last seven months.

He said: 'I knew the truth before I came here. Planet Earth is the complete opposite to how the Christian faith works.'

'The Jesus Fellowship is much more akin to my way of thinking. I believe we all have a spiritual gift, and mine is to get out on the streets to help people who were in the same position as me.'

'I was caught in a vicious circle, but one that I have broken with the help of the Lord and the people around me.'

The religious sect has hundreds of members who have previously endured a life of drugs, alcoholism and homelessness.

The Jesus Fellowship has had its problems with some members, but elders cite the fact that so many join from traumatic backgrounds.

In the past 12 months the Chronicle and Echo has revealed one 20-year-old member who was convicted of underage sex with a 12-year-old girl.

In another case, a chicken was doused in petrol by a member before he set the bird alight.

But that is not to say the Jesus Fellowship has been a retreat exclusively for people from a troubled background.

Well-educated college graduates have decided to adopt the organisation's way of life, and find themselves worshipping alongside doctors and solicitors.

Other members have been raised in a run-of-the-mill, working class environment.

One of these is a man, who went on a mission to infiltrate the Jesus Fellowship to justify rumours of brainwashing which had filtered back to his previous church.

But the covert operation instead converted the 29-year-old, who became a member of the congregation.

He has now ditched the lifestyle traditionally adopted by someone in their 20s, and will have remained celibate for seven years next month.

The man, originally from Brighton, has been living at new creation farm for the last seven months.

He said: 'I was a member of another church and I came to take information away for why people should not join (the Jesus Fellowship).'

'But I saw a lot of love, and a lot of acceptance - it was what I was looking for.'

'There is always temptation, but there is an overriding desire to continue with what I have chosen. I know here I have a life that I want, there is nothing I would want to go back to the life I had before.'

'I was introspective and shy, but here it is much more people orientated. I love being around people and socialising.'