A British Christian cult that attempted to fuse the burgeoning rave culture of the 1980s with Anglican worship is part of an investigation into alleged sex offenses, according to a report.
South Yorkshire Police in northern England confirmed that a man and a woman have been arrested in connection with the Nine O’Clock Service (NOS), a worship group designed to focus on youth that once boasted hundreds of members who flocked to its “rave praise” services in the city of Sheffield.
Anglican Church bigwigs once admired the NOS for its bold attempts to bring new young people into the faith—a demographic the organization had struggled to attract—with its flashy ceremonies that more closely resembled scenes from a nightclub than a traditional Sunday service. At his ordination in 1992, the NOS founder wore robes used by Robert de Niro in the film The Mission. His group emerged from a Christian rock group and would blend evangelical Christianity with environmental concerns and other social campaigns in its ministry.
But the NOS soon became notorious for some of its more questionable activities. Young women were enlisted by the group’s founder to become “postmodern nuns,” and allegedly performed sexual acts with him. At a Christian festival in 1992, there was uproar when a scheduled NOS worship on the main stage turned out to feature two bikini-clad dancers performing what one Christian journalist described as “provocative bumps and grinds.”
The radical group eventually shut down by church leaders in 1995 after complaints about blurred sexual boundaries in NOS and questions about the Service’s finances. Its charity, the Nine O’Clock Trust, had an income of several hundred thousand dollars in 1994 alone, The Times reports.
The police inquiry revealed Wednesday is believed to have started in 2021, after former members of NOS reported to have been sexually assaulted. Many of the people who have spoken to authorities are said to have begun civil cases against the church, which has itself started to provide counseling support to some former members of NOS.
“Police have uncovered a lot of information but the investigation has become more complex,” one former member told the Times. “The length of time the investigation is taking has turned this into a terrible waiting game.”
A police spokeswoman said: “Two people, a man and a woman, have been arrested on suspicion of sexual offenses, alleged to have taken place in Sheffield between 1980 to 1995. They have since been released under investigation pending further enquiries.”