African churches opened their doors in London from the 1960s, followed by a second wave in the 1980s. Migrants, many of them from Nigeria and Ghana, sought to build communities and maintain cultural connections with their home countries by founding their own churches, often in private homes, schools and office spaces.
Around 250 black majority churches are believed to operate in the borough of Southwark, where 16 percent of the population identifies as having African ethnicity.
Southwark represents the biggest concentration of African Christians in the world outside the continent with an more than 20,000 congregants attending new black majority churches each Sunday, according to research conducted in 2013 by the University of Roehampton.
Reflecting the different waves of migration to Britain in the 20th Century, these African places of worship followed the Caribbean churches that appeared in the late 1940s and 1950s as workers and their families arrived from Jamaica and other former British colonies.
As the African communities grew, the churches moved into bigger spaces in bingo halls, cinemas and warehouses, gathering congregations of up to 500 people where services are streamed online by volunteers with video cameras.
There is a striking contrast with the empty pews at many traditional Church of England churches where congregations have dwindled for years.
“We pray for this country,” said Abosede Ajibade, a 54-year-old Nigerian who moved to Britain in 2002 and works for an office maintenance company.
The research by the University of Roehampton found that many churches have in common a drive for professional advancement, a commitment to spend three hours or more at Sunday service and typically very loud worship.
“That is how we express our joy and gratitude to God,” Andrew Adeleke, a senior pastor at the House of Praise, one of the biggest African churches in Southwark, in a former theatre.
“The church is not supposed to be a graveyard,” Adeleke said. “It is supposed to be a temple of celebration and worship and the beauty is to be able to express our love to God, even when things are not perfect in our lives.”
To read the full article visit https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/feb/01/african-churches-boom-london-backstreets-a-picture-essay
Written by Simon Dawson / Reuters. Words by William Schomberg
Courtesy of Guardian News & Media Ltd