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'Joyful' farewell for leader of Jesus Army

Website: Northampton Chronicle and Echo
Date: 1/06/2009
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More than 2,000 people congregated at the Jesus Centre in Northampton to see the thanksgiving funeral for Jesus Army leader Noel Stanton erupt into song.

Mick Haines, who will now step into the leader's shoes, led the ceremony in the town centre on Saturday, where the nine religious songs Mr Stanton chose before his death were sung in the order he specified.

Screens were set up around the centre displaying the celebrations, tributes and readings as the number of people attending was too large for the room to hold.

Mr Haines told the congregation: "Noel would want this to be a joyful occasion of celebration, so it's a praising atmosphere.

"His heart was to the people of Northampton. This is a very significant day for the history of Northampton and the history of the Jesus Army."

He said Mr Stanton was "very keen" to hold the thanksgiving service at the Jesus Centre so that anyone who wanted to come to the funeral could do so.

As the gathering sang the songs chosen by their leader, they clapped their hands, stamped their feet and sang louder as the songs went on.

A video showing footage of Mr Stanton baptising people and giving speeches throughout his career, including his final speech at the Jesus Centre before he stepped down in April, was projected onto the screens, after which there was a standing ovation lasting nearly a minute.

The ceremony was followed by a procession led with the hearse carrying Mr Stanton's coffin, which travelled around Northampton town centre, towards Kislingbury and to Bugbrooke, where they laid his body to rest at the Jesus Army graveyard.

John Campbell, chairman of the Jesus Army charitable trust, said a remembrance book had been put together for people to pay tribute to Mr Stanton.

He said: "One of the things about it is the whole range of people, old people, young people, educated people, people who are not so well educated.

"Noel would want his legacy to be people, and all the things they have said."