Back to the Farm
You can read more of my story in:
Yesterday I visited the farm. The farm is nearly sold and it's now the second season that the orchards have not been worked.
The farm was a single brother's house, with granny annex for a married couple and kids plus ancillary houses for single sisters and others for families, of the cult variously called The Jesus Army, Modern Jesus Army (mja), New Creation Christian Community and The Jesus Fellowship. I lived there as a true believer for seven years as a single brother and then for a further three years with Delia at River Farmhouse just a field away.
The Jesus Army was a personality cult built around Noel Stanton, a community that came out of the Charismatic movement of the seventies. It was one of the few communities from that era to survive long but collapsed amidst abuse scandals just a few years after Noel died. Noel, with holes on his cardigan, lived at the farm and ruled with an iron fist. A theocracy, a religious dictatorship.
The community was modeled on the early church, described in the book of Acts. Holding all things in common, sharing everything except wives and underwear. No money (except what was really needed, all went to the common purse and "everything" was provided), few personal possessions and no TV. There was a beautiful vision of shared lives alongside crushing patriarchal leadership who as is the way with church leadership were filled with every kind of evil in secret. It was savage. Noel specialised in crushing people publicly during meetings and people admired him for his strength.
We really believed, those of us who "saw the kingdom". How life could be, not living for money or sex but living for things that really mattered. We tried to start a spiritual movement. But the crushing oppression meant nothing really worked. There was such a power and life in being totally committed to a cause and being joined together in that. Of one heart and soul. Living and working together freed from the concerns of money and sex and living for heaven on earth. Something to fight for Ave a reason to live. The life from that made it possible to bear the pain for a while at least and for many of us it was both the best of times and the worst of times.
I arrived in 1996 broken and fresh from prison and homelessness. It was the farm or die homeless, but I knew how to do Christianity from my religious upbringing. So I decided to do Christianity and find my healing.
A month after arriving I hadn't made any progress. All I had inside was a raging emptiness and horror at my psychosis and what I'd become. My shepherd, "Paul Caring", suggested perhaps a "less intense" situation might suit me better. I knew left to myself I would die alone. I have up smoking and that small act of will, small victory, I started to find some will to live and change.
Every night I would go out into the orchards and meditate for an our or so. Then spend another hour or so crying out to God. Shouting with everything within me "freedom", "life", "healing". Getting some life and energy moving through my tortured and broken soul. Digging down inside, determined to live, to grow and to change.
I did this for a few months. Eventually I had to stop. Paul Caring told me we were getting complaints about the noise from the village about a mile away.
We swore a covenant to love each other and to love God. That covenant was used as a chain of bondage and people who left were cursed. People who they swore before God to be true to they cursed. But that quality of love is real and we felt it amongst us. Within us. That deep love and commitment to one another, a love like pure gold refined in the fire and burnished. For love is a covenant and a promise, and to betray love is a curse. If you do not value love then your own love crumbles and fades to dust. The pure love that burns away that which is not love. Love the higher love.
And yesterday, much changed, I walked through those fields. Now it is they that are abandoned and desolate.
You shall no longer be called forsaken, nor your land desolate. But you will be called, “My delight is in her,” and your nation, “Married”;
For the LORD delights in you,
And to the Lord your nation will be married.
-- Isaiah 62:4
My parents met in Cambridge, my father did his degree in engineering and his PhD in chemical engineering (he wrote cobol simulating a chemical plant) there and my mother grew up there as her father lectured on classical history. I have beloved childhood memories of travelling by bus with my Jewish grandmother to see the Red Lion in the shopping centre.
I lived there for about two and a half years. The Red Lion had grown much smaller by this time. One and a half years as a law undergraduate, which had been my dream, and a year mad and homeless which was the death of that dream. My stay in Cambridge finishing with a short stay in Bedford prison, alongside Lord Brockhall for part of it.
I proposed to Delia on the top of Castle Hill where my father proposed to my mother and I still love Cambridge.