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Source : 08/10/1984 Northampton Chronicle and Echo

There are two classes of membership within the Jesus Fellowship Church (Baptist) - residents and non-residents.

The people who take part in the lifestyle of the community, officially the New Creation Christian Community, are known as Baptism and Community members.

And the people who do not actually live within the community but who are linked as closely as possible with the Fellowship, are known as Baptism only members.

Senior Church Elder David Hawker puts the overall membership at around 600 adults plus children and about three quarters are residential members. It is growing.

There is a distinct difference between the two classes. Residents share all their income and donate all their personal wealth to the community trust after a six to 18 month probationary period. And residents who are under 21 have to wait until they have reached that age before handing over their capital wealth.

Non residents do not take part in this system of income and wealth sharing and remain in their own homes.

The residential community itself is broken up into different households of various sizes, and members pool their income into the Common Purse from which the day to day needs of the household are met.

Any surplus money is given to the central trust which is regulated by a Trust Deed, the responsibility of 10 trustees, including Mr. Noel Stanton, generally regarded as the founder of the Fellowship and now senior pastor.

They make sure the funds are administered correctly according to the deed. Trustees are accountable to all the members since all the resources of the community are owned by, and benefit the membership as a whole.

They keep a full record of capital contributions made by each member and refund all or part of it, normally with an inflation allowance, to anyone leaving the community.

The trustees can also make a discretionary payment to anyone leaving the community who does not have enough cash to cover immediate living costs.

The needs of every residential member are met from within the community. In other words, once you become a residential member, you are dependant on the community for a roof over your head.

Some residential members work in community business enterprises, including a farm, which, as well as selling produce on the outside market, also provides vegetables for the various households.

Other residential members work outside the community in various professions including teaching, the law and medicine.

But whatever the job, they still have to hand over their salary. A former community member said: 'The wage received by any member was, and is, immediately paid into the Common Purse fund. At no time is it available for their personal encashment.'

He added: 'When I received my personal cheque, I was expected to countersign it, and more or less immediately return it to the person who administered the Common Purse.'

Senior Church Elder, Mr. David Hawker, insisted the contribution was purely voluntary, but agreed it was a fundamental requirement of residential membership.

After a period of 'grace' if contributions were not forthcoming, individuals would be required to leave the community, he said.

'It is a basic requirement that community residents provide enough means to support themselves and their families as the community is not a charity and receives no outside finance,' he added.

Mr. Hawker commented that all members did carry a certain amount of money with them to cover personal needs and could always request more from the Common Purse treasurer.

There has also been criticism from non-community businesses which have found themselves in competition with community enterprises. They have complained their own prices have been savagely undercut because of the low wages paid by community firms to members of the Church they employ.

But the Fellowship emphasises its pay is in accordance with legal minimum rates.