The Nine O'Clock Service: 'Alternative' '90s Christian cult probed after sex abuse allegations emerge
SHEFFIELD, UK: Following allegations of abuse that date back more than 25 years, a police investigation is currently being conducted into an alternative Christian cult that was established in the 1980s and featured bikini dancers and light shows. Two people have been arrested in relation to an investigation into the Christian group The Nine O'Clock Service and alleged sexual offenses. The NOS worship group was designed to focus on youth and once boasted hundreds of members who flocked to its “rave praise” services in the city of Sheffield.
The Nine O'Clock Service was once regarded as the Church of England's successful attempt to engage a younger audience and was well-liked by former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey. Established in the late 1980s, NOS provided rave-like experiences with loud music, dancers, flashing lights, and abstract film loops shown on large screens. It attracted up to 600 parishioners until services were discontinued in 1995 following claims of sexual abuse and exploitation.
The police investigation that was made public on Wednesday, August 24 is thought to have begun in 2021 after former NOS members reported experiencing sexual assault.
The Church of England was approached by former members of the group, according to a report in The Times from last year, and dozens were preparing to come forward with allegations of abuse and exploitation. Several former participants are also considering suing the Church over the allegations.
The victims have previously been urged to come forward by the current Bishop of Sheffield, Right Rev Pete Wilcox. When Dr George Carey, the Archbishop of Canterbury elect, met the founder of NOS in 1990, the Church provided financial support for his services.
A South Yorkshire Police spokeswoman confirmed, "A man and a woman have been arrested on suspicion of sexual offenses, alleged to have taken place in Sheffield between 1980 to 1995." She added, "They have since been released under investigation pending further inquiries."
Wilcox, the current bishop of Sheffield, had said earlier, "We can confirm that a group of survivors of the appalling conduct at the Nine O’clock Service in the diocese of Sheffield, which originally surfaced in the 1990s, have contacted the Church of England." He added, "Their concerns and harrowing testimonies are being taken very seriously, and there is, of course, a limit to what we can say while that process continues." "Support is being offered, and the Church is working closely with the statutory authorities," he stated.
Some of the alleged victims are represented by Richard Scorer, a specialized abuse attorney at Slater and Gordon who told The Times, "It is imperative that all allegations arising from the Nine O'Clock Service are thoroughly investigated. My clients are aware of the police investigation and are co-operating fully with it."