Multi-ethnic Congregations: A Flavour of World Christianity in Britain

As conversations on World Christianity continues with the growth of churches in Africa, Latin America, South Korea, China and South Asia, and as Majority World Christians continue to send missionaries to the Western world, it is important to look at multi-ethnic churches in Britain and consider their significance for World Christianity.

Take for example the church I pastor in Woolwich in the Royal Borough of Greenwich (RBG) in south-east London. Our church have about 17 different nationalities representation drawn from African countries, the Caribbean, white British, black British and so on. We have people from Nigeria, Cameroun, USA, Jamaica, Ghana, Trinidad, Barbados, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Martinique, Congo, Brazil, Vietnam, Seirra Leone, Lebanon, Austria, Ireland, Italy, England, India and Germany. We also have different generations such as first generation Africans and Caribbean and second generation Africans and Caribbean.  In addition people speak different languages such as Yoruba, French, German, Lingala, Igbo, Pidgeon English, Shona, Twi, Fante, Ga, Vietnamese, Hindi, Patio and Portugese

These diversity has allowed me to have a taste of World Chrsitianity. For example, I have presided over a Ghanaian naming ceremy and learnt the deep meaning of Ghanaian names. I have also presided over Nigerian naming ceremonies. This has been done either at people’s homes (the traditional Yoruba way of doing namng ceremony) or at church service. About two weeks ago we had in the same service a Ghanaian naming ceremony and a couple from Congo dedicating their daughter. The name of the Congolese couple’s daughter was Qiyana, a Zulu name meaning the smart one. The names of people at our church reflects World Christianity, here are few examples, Superior, Neelkarma, Huong, Asante, Adeola, Aurille, Angelo, Clement, Akko and so on. I have also visited an Indian family and enjoy a home made curry and Indian tea while having discussions on Christian spirituality.  I have spent time listening to the stories and testimonies of Christians from around the world. This process of listening and praying with people has enriched my own faith and understanding.

Our congregtaion is one of many multi-ethnic churches in Britain and while scholarly attention is on currents and developments of African Christianity, South Korean Christanity or Latin American Christianity, important as they are, it seems to me that multi-ethnic congregations are certainly a place to also study World Christianity. There is the need to look at multi-ethnic congregtaions not just as place to understand multicultural churches, but also as a place to study World Christianity. These congregations often have rich theological significance for our learning and understanding of World Christianity. This is not of course an arm-chair approach to the study of World Christianity as it is still imperative to travel to Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean to understand these Christianities, however studying mulit-ethnic congregations in Britain gives us a window and a flavour of World Christianity in a locality.

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About israelolofinjana

Rev Israel Oluwole Olofinjana is an ordained and accredited Baptist minister and has pastored Crofton Park Baptist Church (2007-2011) and Catford Community Church (2011-2013). He is currently the pastor of Woolwich Central Baptist Church, a multicultural church in south east London. He is Nigerian coming from a Pentecostal background. He holds a BA (Hons) in Religious Studies from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria and MTh from Carolina University of Theology (CUT). Israel is the editor of “Turning the Tables on Mission: Stories of Christians from the Global South in the UK” and author of “Reverse in Ministry and Missions: Africans in the Dark Continent of Europe” and “20 Pentecostal Pioneers in Nigeria” He has spoken in a number of conferences regarding reverse mission and Black Majority Churches (BMCs) and has also contributed to academic journals and Christian magazines on the subject of Black Majority Churches (BMC) in Britain. He is currently co-opted as a member of the Baptist Union Council. Israel is also one of the Directors of Centre for Missionaries from the Majority World an initiative design to train and equip pastors and missionaries from the South. He is a member of the Global Connections council. When he is not preaching or writing he is playing with Lego! He is happily married to Lucy who works as an administrator and research co-ordinator for the Evangelical Alliance. She is a graduate of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), earning a BA in Social Anthropology and International Development. Lucy loves baking and watching movies!
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