Immigrant Christians

Some immigrant communities are numerous and influential. The impact is most clearly marked in Great Britain, which from the late 1940s onward drew heavily on Caribbean labor. Readers of Zadie Smith's White Teeth will recall the pervasive religiosity and apocalyptic tone that pervades description of London's Jamaican world of the 1970s in a Jehovah's Witness family. Caribbean ethnic groups are prominent in enthusiastic sects like the Witnesses and the Seventh Day Adventists, and Adventist numbers in particular would be slim if not for recent arrivals from the West Indies. In recent years, though, Africans have arrived in growing numbers, so that today, London has 380,000 black Africans as against 344,000 Afro-Caribbeans. Some regions of the city have a strongly African cast.7

The religious impact of immigration is unmistakable. Commenting on a successful African church, a correspondent in the British Guardian noted that "London, the cynical capital of the unbelieving English, must be one of the least religious places in the world. Of those who chose to answer the census question, 1,130,616 Londoners (15.8% of the total) said they had 'no religion'. Yet, as the city continues to be Africanized, so it is being evangelized," chiefly by charismatic and Pentecostal churches. Though the absolute numbers may be small, the potential for future growth is immense, as second- and third-generation members of the newer churches move them into the religious mainstream. As in the United States, black churches have a strong political orientation and a powerful social outreach, and pastors are well-known community leaders. As one London African was quoted as saying in a recent news story, "From the day we're born till we die, it's the church."8

When black immigrants arrived in Britain in the 1950s, it was not obvious that they would be initiating a new church network, but many encountered discrimination and hostility in the mainstream Anglican and other Protestant churches that they tried to join. Nigerians, for instance, felt rebuffed by the Anglican churches that they initially sought out. Africans and Caribbean migrants responded by setting up their own congregations, which flourished. One example is London's Jesus House, established in 1994 as a new planting by the RCCG. Today, it claims over 2,000 weekly participants, and numbers are growing steadily. Of Britain's ten largest megachurches, four—KICC, Glory House, Jesus House, and New Wine Ministries—are pastored by Africans (Table 4.1).

Britain's black churches today claim around 250,000 members, and an institutional framework is provided by groups like the Afro-Caribbean Evangelical Alliance. In 2005, the Church Census found that people of African or Afro-Caribbean stock accounted for 10 percent of Sunday churchgoers in England, a number rising to 44 percent in London: nonwhite ethnic groups made up another 14 percent of London's

Table 4.1 British Megachurches

Churches with average weekly attendance of two thousand or more


Attendance claimed

Kingsway International

Christian Centre Kensington Temple (Elim


Pentecostal Church) Hillsong Church Ruach Ministries Glory House Jesus House St. Thomas's, Sheffield Holy Trinity, Brompton New Wine Ministries

Source: Andy Peck, "What the Mega Church Can Teach You," Christianity Magazine, August 2006, at www.christianitymagazine

worshipers. In religious terms, the empire has struck back, decisively. Nor do these remarks about black churches take account of the considerable black presence in mainstream churches, especially among Catholics. Caribbean and African Catholics are a familiar sight at pilgrimages and other communal gatherings, and so increasingly are east Asians. The ancient shrine of Aylesford in Kent now plays host to a sizable annual gathering of Afro-Caribbean believers. Moreover, black churches no longer exist in a segregated universe of their own. As noted earlier, one of the country's main religious interest groups is the mainly white, million-strong Evangelical Alliance, a venerable structure founded in 1846. In 1998, though, this organization elected as its head a (black) Jamaican-born pastor named Joel Edwards.9

Was this article helpful?

0 0
The Power Of Charisma

The Power Of Charisma

You knowthere's something about you I like. I can't put my finger on it and it's not just the fact that you will download this ebook but there's something about you that makes you attractive.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment