Thursday, May 21, 2009

Noel Stanton

Noel Stanton, founder and former apostolic team leader of the Jesus Army, died yesterday afternoon.

Many people will want to mark his passing. For those of us who live out the vision of the Jesus Army – a vision largely initiated and propelled forward by Noel Stanton himself – it feels like the end of our founding era. Challenges lie ahead. But we’re in it together.

In this blog, as a rule, I don’t mention people by name. “Washing one’s clean linen in public” (as Oscar Wilde put it) is one thing. Even washing my own dirty linen in public seems fair enough, if odd. But to air someone else’s linen, soiled or spotless, seems wrong to me, and I’ve avoided it.

It is ironic to break my self-imposed anonymity rule today for Noel Stanton, particularly as Noel himself avoided the limelight. Indeed, it is one of the marks of his humility that today the Jesus Army is far, far better known than Noel is. That is how he wanted it. For Noel, it was all about Jesus Christ, not about Noel Stanton. We are not called “Noel Stanton ministries” but Jesus Army, or Jesus Fellowship.

But Noel’s forty years of faithful leadership deserve some celebration and here’s my small part.

Noel Stanton was an inspiring leader. He was wilful, single-minded – at times maddeningly so! – yet compassionate. He could roar at what he perceived as compromise or hypocrisy, and yet he won the hearts of many, many people through his self-evident commitment and care. Many will miss him as a father and a grandad, particularly those who lived with him in Christian Community at New Creation Farm.

Indeed, it is a mark of the integrity of Noel’s lifestyle that he lived simply in community with his brothers and sisters. His was no life of privilege. He exemplified simplicity. For all Noel’s fire and tenacity, he never sought to feather his own nest. Quite the opposite: the second-hand, iron bedstead that was his throughout his years in community says it all.

One of the things I particularly valued about Noel was his unwavering commitment to those that few others would believe in. He was determined to see some of “the worst” becoming the best that they could be. At times, my hair stood on end as I watched Noel invest trust in young people who (quite obviously in my sensible eyes) were not worthy of it. (And sometimes I was “right”: Noel was hurt more than once by those who let him down.) But, of course, in every way that mattered, it was Noel who was right all along. He was determined that a generation of youth who had been written off as “Generation X”, the “lost generation” should be believed in and championed. He took risks to see it happen.

And happen it did. Some of those young men and women are leading movers and shakers in the Jesus Army today.

This belief in those with few of the natural advantages of wealth or education was a trait he shared with another holy army’s founder. William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, declared, “Go for souls and go for the worst.”

Noel lived a similar dream. And he would have heartily concurred with some other famous words spoken by Booth:

“While women weep, as they do now, I'll fight; while children go hungry, as they do now I'll fight; while men go to prison, in and out, in and out, as they do now, I'll fight; while there is a drunkard left, while there is a poor lost girl upon the streets, while there remains one dark soul without the light of God, I'll fight, I'll fight to the very end!”

Noel Stanton fought till the very end. Now we fight on.

And Noel – we salute you.


Anonymous said...

a high calling we will miss him even those of us that knew him from a distance
he has reached his goal and will be worshipping at the feet of the Father he gave every thing in life to follow, And those left behind deal with our pain and loss he will be missed

Anonymous said...

" Now we fight on" being the most important words for you all as a church, and fight on with a unity that cannot be shook.If you don't and if you let disharmony creep in you'll be trashing all that God has achieved through Noel. Fight on bro and much love to you all.

ps...embrace the power of the weekend as it will be there

mikeybaby said...

God bless him for he was a man of immense vision. He will be bossing the people in heaven to get themselves motivated and help the poor in spirit.

Anonymous said...

Noel was an incredible man who taught us how to live but he has now taught us how die.He is a tough act for anyone to follow.His last words to many were see you in Heaven.I know he is there and I hope I can make it too.

Anonymous said...

Saddened to hear this news, encouraged by his legacy, and certain in the knowledge that he played his part.
Grace and peace to you all.

sally said...

I was priviledged to sit under Noel's Ministry for 8 years from 1975 - 1983. Amazing preacher /prophet...His teaching was incredibly meaty . A Great Man of God Sadly missed, but with the one he loved Hallelujah

Kath said...

A wonderful Preacher, Pastor, Father, Friend. I was privelliged to be part of the farm & jewel house for a few years. Until ill health meant me moving back to Wales for family reasons.
But the Jeus Army & Noel have always been close to my heart & thoughts.
I look forward to seeing Noel's legacy grow as the church advances.
I pray i'll find away to be part of the advancing church.
Yes Noel will be missed. But he deserves his place in Glory.

Heather said...

since the age of 15 yrs,Now 42yrs. Noel has always showed a heart of compassion towards me and my family. Constantly speaking words of love and encouragement, or correction (when due). I bless God for the protection of my children by his prayers, and I bless God for his words of blessing at birthday times. I pray my children grow to be strong men and women, for which they were ordained to be. I bless God for the privilege to be baptised by Noel and have my marriage blessed and all my six children dedicated to God by Noel and the church. Even though I am in Australia, my heart is covenanted forever. The thing that I would have wished for the most was to be there to see Jesus welcoming Noel into heaven, and what rejoicing there was. Your words live on in my heart Dear Brother Noel, I bless the Lord for you. Heather

chrisinblackpool said...

I once sat in the farm dining room waiting to eat an evening meal. People gathered, seats filled up and then Noel arrived and sat down.
The room fell silent and it was almost as if those who lived there knew what was coming.
"Where is brother 'so and so'", asked Noel. "and 'sam', do we know where he is?".
On and on it went.. until it came to three brothers that had only arrived the day before. "do we know where they are"??
Their shepherds did not, and I remember looking at Noels face as they admitted that their sheep where missing and they we sat down expecting to eat...
He didn't say a word, he just looked at them, and I remember thinking to myself that it was as if Jesus himself had asked where his sheep were.
I don't mean to imply at all that Noel is God or anything silly like that. All I know is that day I saw a man deliver conviction without saying a word.
Ten minutes later the shepherds mentioned returned to their tables having tracked their sheep down.. that was when we ate.
I was a memeber of JA for only a few years really, but whilst I was there I gave my all because I believed that what God had started through Noel was somthing very, very special.
I will be there on Saturday, I can't really explain why, but the thought of not being there is about as unimaginable as it gets.
RIP Brother

Anonymous said...

you smiled at me once and all i saw was genuine love shining out of your face, you never even knew me, but you loved me. thank you.

Anonymous said...

Born in 1926, on Christmas Day
Taken from us one sunny May
This is not the end
But just the beginning
Of the legacy he left
For the broken and sinning
He gave the hopeless hope
And set the oppressed free
The searching have found
Not just church but family
Now with the Father
Noel's spirit can rest
But our work's not over
In the Army God's blessed

I never knew Noel personally, but his legacy lives on in my life and in the lives of many others in and outside of the fellowship.

Anonymous said...

The day I married, Noel delivered some words at the evening meal at the farm. He told me he had always believed in me. That meant so much, as I can't recall anyone else ever directly saying the same - in particular, because I discerned that he meant it with deep conviction.

He inspired confidence in me each time we spoke. Here's to you Noel - may God fill eternity with bliss for you.

I have taken your advice and put it into action on a number of occasions, so thank you for being a faithful shepherd.

I dreamt I died once - it was like gracefully falling through a deep night, landing gently on a woodland floor as the golden sunlight filtered through the trees. The birds were singing; joy and peace permeated the atmosphere as the Lord welcomed me, giving solid assurance of salvation.

I trust it was the same or better for you brother; I hope to meet you again one day. Thank you Father for Noel, and for those he has inspired to take up the mantle of apostolic duty, and for the blessing of many thousands of lives changed for the better.


Glasgowkev said...

Listening to Noel talk about Jesus was inspiring and hypnotic