A fish pie story

My Uncle Barry lives in what was until recently a Jesus Army Church community house called Stronglight.

The Jesus Army have been in the news a lot for various reasons. The good work that they have done has been extraordinary for those who have needed help. And this work has been buried under the weight of recent controversies.

Barry sent me some pictures of a fish pie out of the blue a couple of days ago … I had to find out more!

“My name is John Barrington Miller. An unusual Christian name … have you heard of Barrington Pheloung, the composer? The most famous thing he composed is the theme tune to Morse detective series. His is the only other example I am aware of where his name is shortened from Barrington. I am called Barry rather than John… something like 5 percent of the population don’t use their given first name which causes endless confusion to authorities for forms, identities and such like.

In my role in the house I cook 6 days a week.  I love cooking. But it’s quite a thing. The cooking isn’t hard. The hard part is always being available to do the cooking… I can’t just say that I fancy cheese on toast or a sandwich or something simple – it always needs to be a meat and two veg kind of a meal and I have to do all the shopping to make that happen too. 

What was the dish you photographed? 

It’s the first time I’ve done it here (as in Stronglight). In this environment I have to be conservative with food to say the least and anything fishy can be risky! Salmon is cheap at Aldi at the moment so I first tried poached salmon with parsley sauce which went down well. Then I thought I would expand the repertoire so I had some white fish in the freezer and some prawns and hard boiled eggs… 

I cook for Church household ‘inmates’ of Stronglight. There are six of us living here; Steve, Frank, Gary, Ralph, Barry (not short for Barrington) and me. Although its no longer a Church household or Jesus Army any more.

We will soon to be dispersed to the four winds, as the house has been sold and we have to be gone by August.

Some days I make more effort than others. Tuesday is a meal called Agape which I traditionally do a roast for which is quite full on. On Thursday we used to have a Friendship meal but since lockdown that has ended. I normally make an effort for that, which is the day we had the fish pie. Tonight I will cook chicken Kiev’s from the freezer!

I want to explain why I took photographs of the fish pie!

Of late, partly because it takes so long to make things and so little time to eat them (the fish pie took several hours to make and about 5 minutes to eat). I have started to photograph the food as proof that I made the effort. Otherwise all you have left to show for your endeavour is a dirty dish! 

One time I put ingredients on the table and took pictures of them, and asked everyone in Stronglight to guess what I was making.. it made me feel better as at least there was evidence of my effort. Its funny that you do all these things and they eat it all, and I think they may even enjoy it, but otherwise there’s nothing to show for it at the end!

How long have you lived at Stronglight?

I moved into Stronglight about three years ago when I was chucked out of my house for not paying the rent. Before this I had been involved in the Church of Jesus Army for several years. I was with Trumpet to start with and then eventually they (The Jesus Army) rearranged the houses, so I became part of Stronglight as a household although I wasn’t living here. And then events conspired … and so I moved in.

How would you describe what happened to the church? 

There were things that went on which were in relation to the way that people were treated. I would say it wasn’t widespread and it wasn’t pervasive throughout the church but it was enough and it was clearly an issue – and it was an issue that wasn’t identified and dealt with early enough. 

In my opinion, there’s two things that happened to cause the Church’s downfall:

1. Events happened and senior leaders looked the other way and allowed things to carry on which should never have been allowed to carry on and that’s now come back to haunt us as people left the church and then came back with complaints. The Church started paying out large sums of money which I think encouraged more people to raise complaints. And then others started to jump on the band wagon as money was involved… and that caused an avalanche of complaints. 

2. The leadership was changed to be led by people who were more administrative rather than apostolic – the Church really exists on its apostolic leadership so we became an organisation without a direction and not really a Church anymore. 

At its height there were over 2000 members. It was a very young and vibrant Church. All that changed when the apostolic leaders were replaced with more administrative leaders. The older members of the Church accepted that change but the younger members started to leave in greater numbers. The short story to a much longer one was that the Church couldn’t generate enough income to be operative.

What is next for Stronglight?

Stronglight has been sold to a developer who is planning to build – amazingly – 21 flats out of it. Its causing quite a lot of anxiety with our neighbours who are worried about noise and traffic. At the moment the house has 12 bedrooms and the developer wants to make that into 21 self contained flats. They will use the basement, the garage… parking is already terrible here. I suspect that they want to rent them to students who will just have to go out of the back gate, across the race course and then they are at the University.

I don’t know what everyone will do when we have to move away from Stronglight. I think most of us will stay in the Northampton area. Gary has already told me that once he moves to his new flat he will sleep there but he is planning to come back to Stronglight for meals!”

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  1. Fiona Larcombe says:

    You uncle’s comments about why he photographed his pie capture it so well – all that time and then gone in minutes!

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