Author: Daniel Clark, Associate Pastor at Southall Baptist Church.
It is Sunday Evening and I am at an engagement party, with an absent groom, at Southall Baptist Church. All of a sudden, my daughter starts to dance the Aquarela Brasileira, a famous Brazilian tune, set to Pakistani dance music! That the global church has hit us big time is illustrated not only in this curious cultural mix, but in the specific rituals of a Pakistani ceremony, being replicated in a British church.
In this article, rather than engage in academic reflection, we will seek to simply raise some of the issues that emerge from engaging in mission in the cultural melting pot that is West London.
Church in the Diaspora: The Southall Experiment
Talk concerning a “new Christendom” is no novelty. If at the turn of the 19th to the 20th century the “average” Christian was White, Western, ‘traditional’ and middle-class, at the turn of the 20th to the 21st century the average Christian is black, or Asian, Pentecostal and economically poor.
What may be more surprising is the way that this reality is no longer something out there in Asia or in Africa but has now hit the shores of Europe itself. Thriving churches are often those with a strong immigrant presence. As thousands flock to Kingsway International Christian Centre, more historical denominations struggle to adapt. At the inaugural Redcliffe Lectures in World Christianity Dr. Andrew Walls envisaged a future where Europeans would hear the gospel for the first time from the mouths of Ghanaian missionaries. If it has not already arrived that future is not far off.
At Southall Baptist Church this is something which is experienced firsthand. There are over 20 churches of different ethnic backgrounds which are linked with SBC. Many of them are Brazilian, benefiting from the fact that the senior pastor of the church, Boyd Williams, is a former missionary in Brazil. Nonetheless, there are also various churches from African, Sri Lankan, Kachin and Russian backgrounds. Ecclesiologically, these churches range from different styles of Baptists to African Pentecostal churches, so that one has the situation that Pentecostal Bishops find themselves under the leadership of a Baptist Pastor!
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