How priest is now at the centre of the most unholy allegations, by DAVID LEAFE

The late-night telephone calls were not at all what you would expect from a Church of England vicar contacting female members of his congregation.

Summoning selected women to his lavishly appointed home in Sheffield, the Reverend Chris Brain wanted help with what became known as ‘putting him to bed’. At the very least this meant giving him a massage, often while he was naked.

For some of his young followers, it stopped there. But for others, the encounters are said to have gone much further, with kissing and cuddling leading to intimacy described by one as covering ‘the whole spectrum of abuse’.

Messianic: Rev Chris Brain is said to have had ¿a desire to control others¿.His every need was attended to by an inner circle of miniskirted ¿nuns¿

Messianic: Rev Chris Brain is said to have had ¿a desire to control others¿.His every need was attended to by an inner circle of miniskirted ¿nuns¿

Messianic: Rev Chris Brain is said to have had ‘a desire to control others’.His every need was attended to by an inner circle of miniskirted ‘nuns’

The main musical driving force in Candescence, as it was known, was his future wife Lynn, whom he had first met at school. She was two years younger than him; they married when Brain was 21. Pictured, Brian newly wed to Lynn

The main musical driving force in Candescence, as it was known, was his future wife Lynn, whom he had first met at school. She was two years younger than him; they married when Brain was 21. Pictured, Brian newly wed to Lynn

The main musical driving force in Candescence, as it was known, was his future wife Lynn, whom he had first met at school. She was two years younger than him; they married when Brain was 21. Pictured, Brian newly wed to Lynn

And Brain, a married father of one who was then approaching 40 — so about twice the age of some of his alleged victims — did not confine himself to nocturnal massage sessions.

His every need was attended to by an inner circle of miniskirted ‘nuns’. And scanty clothing was also in evidence at his rave-like Nine O’Clock Service (NOS), which began each Sunday night at 9pm for nearly a decade.

With bikini-clad dancers cavorting on stage, some technical wizardry and celebratory dance music, the Nine O’Clock Service was designed to attract youngsters more used to clubbing than churchgoing. But although it was a great success, pulling in large congregations at a time when many churches struggled to fill a few pews, NOS collapsed in 1995 after complaints about Brain’s activities.

No further action was taken against him at that time. But this month it was revealed that, following the emergence of the MeToo movement, the Church has recently been contacted by women who gave ‘harrowing testimonies’ about their experiences at his hands.

It is thought dozens of others are preparing to come forward with allegations of sexual exploitation and psychological abuse; and church authorities are braced for a flood of claims for damages.

The Right Rev Pete Wilcox, Bishop of Sheffield, has said these claims are being taken ‘very seriously’.

The law firm representing the alleged victims has advised them not to give interviews about their experiences at this stage — but a disturbing foretaste of the sort of details that might emerge can be found in two damning exposés of the activities of Brain’s church at the time.

One was a BBC Everyman documentary called Breach Of Faith. The other was The Rise And Fall Of The Nine O’Clock Service, a book by investigative journalist Roland Howard, who described Brain as ‘a man who had, according to many, a megalomaniac desire to control other people’.

The alleged victims of his cult-like movement were all the more angry because senior clerical figures including George Carey, then Archbishop of Canterbury-elect, gave Brain their full backing, fast-tracking his ordination and providing financial support for the services that managed to lure in so many young clubbers.

Brain knew that demographic well. Born in 1957, he was from Harrogate, North Yorkshire, where his father was a photographer who was also said to have run a modelling agency, leading Brain to boast that he spent his childhood surrounded by beautiful women.

Leaving grammar school with indifferent exam results, he embraced Christianity soon afterwards, claiming God had told him to start a rock band to show young people that you didn’t have to be ‘square’ to become a believer.

The main musical driving force in Candescence, as it was known, was his future wife Lynn, whom he had first met at school. She was two years younger than him; they married when Brain was 21.

In 1978, the Brains and the rest of the band moved to Crookes, a suburb of Sheffield known for its student population. There they began attending St Thomas’s, a church where Brain’s growing influence led to him being invited to hold the first Nine O’Clock Service in 1985.

Grabs from video on YouTubeThe Nine O'Clock Service was a youth-orientated alternative Christian worship service started in 1986 at St Thomas' Church in Crookes, Sheffield

Grabs from video on YouTubeThe Nine O'Clock Service was a youth-orientated alternative Christian worship service started in 1986 at St Thomas' Church in Crookes, Sheffield

Grabs from video on YouTubeThe Nine O’Clock Service was a youth-orientated alternative Christian worship service started in 1986 at St Thomas’ Church in Crookes, Sheffield

The service and the group associated with it grew to national prominence, but the service was stopped in 1995 following allegations of sexual and emotional abuse

The service and the group associated with it grew to national prominence, but the service was stopped in 1995 following allegations of sexual and emotional abuse

The service and the group associated with it grew to national prominence, but the service was stopped in 1995 following allegations of sexual and emotional abuse

The NOS congregation grew rapidly. By 1988 there were 400 members, with alternative-looking youths dressed in black queueing down the street to enter. But the church authorities really started to take notice in 1989 when David Lunn, the Bishop of Sheffield, welcomed 100 young people into the church at one NOS confirmation service alone.

But even back then, there were disquieting signs. One former NOS member, identified only as Sarah, told the BBC how Brain sat next to her throughout that ceremony, whispering questions about what she was wearing underneath her cassock.

In 1990 he was invited to meet George Carey, who was about to become Archbishop of Canterbury. He told Brain he would like to see a Nine O’Clock Service in every town and city in Britain, and invited him to contribute to a book he was writing about modern evangelism.

It was also decided that Brain should be ordained in two and a half years, instead of the usual four.

With his star in the ascendant, Brain then began to adopt a lifestyle more typical of a U.S. televangelist than an Anglican vicar in training.

There were allegations that he required members of the congregation to cut themselves off from friends and family. And there is no question that they were required to donate a proportion of their income to NOS’s coffers, with some even remortgaging their homes and donating their savings to the cause.

When Brain and his wife moved into a large Victorian townhouse in the city, one NOS member called upon to help decorate it recalled his surprise at the expensive fittings and the amount of trouble taken over the smallest detail.

‘Countless hours were spent finding the right pedal bin for the kitchen. It was colour co-ordinated, easily the plushest house I’d ever worked on.’

It was to this house that Brain summoned his late-night masseuses. One, not part of the group currently lodging complaints with the Church of England, spoke to the Mail this week, on condition of anonymity.

‘He’d say things like “I’m knackered, can you come and give me a massage?”’ she recalled.

She describes how she once arrived to find him lying on his bed in only his boxer shorts. Then in her early 20s, she remained fully clothed throughout — but after she had massaged his back, he turned over, visibly aroused.

When she made it clear that she would go no further, Brain didn’t insist. But she wonders now whether younger women, more vulnerable than her, would have found it harder to say no.

‘I didn’t find Chris controlling or coercive but I have since agonised over whether I missed things and allowed other women to be abused. I just don’t know.’

Later the massages were taken over by a select group of women known as the Homebase Team. The idea was that, like nuns of old who cared for monks out on their missions, they would perform tasks including cooking, cleaning, walking their dog and, after the birth of the Brains’ daughter Ruth, helping with childcare.

That Brain had other ‘chores’ in mind became clear when one woman groomed for Homebase was dropped after rejecting his physical advances.

Those women chosen were required to don rave gear, including Lycra leggings and/or miniskirts, to dye their hair black and wear heavy make-up.

‘The word got around that Chris had these “Lycra lovelies”,’ former NOS member Mel Lloyd told the BBC. ‘They were all these incredibly thin . . . attractive women.’

The youngest member of the Homebase Team was Nadia (not her real name). Like others, she was reluctant to give Roland Howard details of exactly what Brain expected of her, but said that she felt she had to please him to please God.

‘He was the first person I’d ever been sexual with and I feel that, because that was abusive, I will find it hard to trust any man. I think it will take me a long time to believe that someone isn’t just after sex and my body.’

Like real nuns, the Homebasers were required to be celibate — except with Brain. And he subjected them to frequent psychological abuse.

‘He would either find people’s weaknesses and exploit them . . . or plant suggested weaknesses in the person concerned,’ wrote Roland Howard. ‘Then gradually he would make them acknowledge these weaknesses, turning the ratchet farther each time, until he would be screaming at them to sort themselves out or face expulsion from Homebase.’

Brain is also said to have blurred the boundaries between friendship and sexual contact outside this inner circle, often placing his head in the laps of other female NOS members and asking them for massages.

For that ceremony, he insisted on wearing the exact robes worn by Robert De Niro in the 1986 film The Mission

For that ceremony, he insisted on wearing the exact robes worn by Robert De Niro in the 1986 film The Mission

For that ceremony, he insisted on wearing the exact robes worn by Robert De Niro in the 1986 film The Mission

The exact robes were eventually secured from Paramount Studios at great expense

The exact robes were eventually secured from Paramount Studios at great expense

The exact robes were eventually secured from Paramount Studios at great expense

One was whacked on the bottom with a ruler. Others were offered what was termed ‘sexual healing’, with Brain helping them to realise their potential as women.

‘All that was just clever language,’ said Sarah, the target of Brain’s lewd remarks at that mass confirmation. ‘Basically it was about one bloke getting his rocks off with about 40 women.’

That nobody challenged him for so long was testimony to his power and charisma. But the ego apparent at his ordination in 1992 would eventually prove his downfall.

For that ceremony, he insisted on wearing the exact robes worn by Robert De Niro in the 1986 film The Mission. They were eventually secured from Paramount Studios at great expense.

This did not sit well with members of the congregation, and neither did Brain’s flaunting of designer clothes and dining at high-end restaurants.

Members of his entourage invited to those meals learnt always to order the same as him. To pick something different from the menu was seen as trying to stand out and make a ‘power grab’.

These delusions of grandeur did not go unnoticed by all. Stephen Lowe, Archdeacon of Sheffield at the time, became disturbed by the messianic aura around Brain with his shoulder-length black hair, grand pectoral cross and fawning entourage.

‘There was this feeling of Jesus and his Disciples, or Jesus surrounded by a bevy of women, that was increasingly worrying,’ he told Roland Howard.

Lowe was relieved when, in 1994, Brain announced that he wanted a rest from leading the church, holidaying in a luxury villa in the Canaries for two months with his wife and the Homebase Team.

Such a holiday today would be about£46,000. Half the cost was paid by Jon Ingham, an NOS member who mortgaged his house to raise the money.

Although he was allowed to join the Brains on the holiday he had paid for, Ingham was not allowed to relax. Every day he was required to play squash with Brain and to let him win.

Back in England for Christmas 1994, the Brains moved into a 17th-century farmhouse in the Pennines donated by two senior members of the congregation. Refurbished to his detailed specifications, the five-bedroom property included a spiral steel staircase, televisions suspended from the ceilings and four state-of-the-art ghetto-blasters nestled between plants, paintings and objets d’art.

As Roland Howard pointed out, his annual expenditure was closer to an Archbishop’s than an average parish priest’s. But Brain was about to endure what he likened to his own crucifixion.

Today he goes by his first name ¿ James ¿ and is the director of a Manchester-based business consultancy

Today he goes by his first name ¿ James ¿ and is the director of a Manchester-based business consultancy

Today he goes by his first name — James — and is the director of a Manchester-based business consultancy

In his absence, disillusioned members of the congregation found the courage to voice concerns about sexual and emotional abuse within NOS to the Church — and in August 1995, its services were finally stopped.

This was a development that Brain seemed to regard with some bemusement in the BBC documentary filmed soon afterwards.

‘For a priest in a church setting, I’d have to say I was involved in improper sexual contact [with] a number of women,’ he admitted, before expressing surprise at the idea that he might resign.

‘I would have thought the thing a Christian community would want to see is somebody who is repentant and somebody who is willing to change.’

But by the time the documentary was screened, he had resigned.

Today he goes by his first name — James — and is the director of a Manchester-based business consultancy. He had not responded to several attempts to contact him for comment by the time the Mail went to press; and we know little about his life and work today, except what can be gleaned from his company’s rather impenetrable website.

That website promises, among other things, to ‘guide people to discover, rediscover or clarify their purpose’.

Which is something many NOS followers were seeking when they turned to the Rev Chris Brain, a man who may be about to embroil the Church of England in one of its biggest sex scandals. 

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