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Source : 11/10/1984 Northampton Chronicle and Echo

Sunday night in Northampton and people are preparing to round off the weekend. It may be a dinner party at home or a visit to a pub or a disco.

Youngsters are in front of mirrors turning themselves into beautiful people, ready for a night on the town before the grind of work or the boredom of unemployment takes over again.

In Nene College hall guitars are being played as people sing, many of them lift an arm or both arms towards the sky.

It looks like a scene from the video produced earlier this year by pop supergroup Queen to promote their record Radio Ga-Ga.

But the happenings in the hall are far more serious, for the people are all attending one of a series of opening meetings given by the Jesus Fellowship Church (Baptist).

The idea is to try to attract more followers to their own particular brand of religion.

Later in the two hour long meeting, the leader of the Jesus People, Noel Stanton, will lecture a captive audience on the theme: What does it profit a man or woman to gain the world and lose their soul?

The faithful are spellbound, but to an outsider like myself, it creates a feeling of unease.

The meeting was one of four organised by the Jesus Fellowship and when I arrived 10 minutes before the advertised starting time, the hall was already full with about 300 people, from babies in arms to pensioners.

Within five minutes of me sitting down at the back of the hall, a man in his late 20s had sat down beside me and introduced himself. When I told him I had only come to the meeting because I was curious, he quickly steered me to a seat in the body of the hall - and remained at my side for the next two hours.

For the first hour we sang hymns, accompanied by an organist, a trumpeter and various guitarists scattered throughout the hall.

Most of the hymns had been written by members of the Fellowship and consisted of short verses with a stirring refrain and they were sung through two, three or even four times.

Once, when we had obviously not been singing with true feeling, Noel Stanton said we would all have to sing it again but this time with conviction because 'just singing did not save anyone.'

Noel Stanton led the singing throughout and when he took over the microphone to deliver his sermon, everyone listened with wrapt attention.

By then he had shed his suit jacket to reveal a fashionably striped shirt - and the beginnings of a middle aged paunch.

But there was nothing middle aged about his sermon. He commands his audience and, speaking without reference to any notes, he does not lose their attention. The flow of words continues unabated.

The theme was simple but direct. He called on everyone to renounce the sins of the world and give themselves to Jesus. There could be no half measures, he said. It was all or nothing.

The final 15 minutes of his sermon was spent in asking time and again for people in the hall to make a commitment to Jesus by leaving their seats and going through to what he called the 'Ministry Room' where brothers of the Fellowship would receive them and assist them in their problems.

The exhortation to make a commitment went on and on - and people did rise from the seats.

Several people in the audience were singled out for criticism although they were not mentioned by name. Mr. Stanton also spoke of 'backsliders' whose commitment to Christ had not been 100 per cent and he called on them - 'and they know who I mean' - to go to the 'Ministry Room' and receive fresh counsel.

Finally, we sang a hymn and it was time for me to go. But you cannot expect to walk out of a Fellowship meeting as you might a cinema.

The man, who had met me at the beginning of the meeting and had stayed at my side throughout, followed me to the door.

'Have you been touched by God?' he asked. I did not answer, but he gave me a card with his name, address and telephone number and assured me that he would only be too happy to help me in any way and that I was more than welcome to come to another meeting.

I have not been back.