Black church-goers have increased rapidly over the past decade
Visit certain areas of London on a Sunday morning
and chances are you'll see a stream of
well-dressed families en route to church. It's
likely more than half will be from ethnic
People of African and Caribbean origin make up 2%
of the UK's population but account for more than
two-thirds of Sunday church-goers in London and
7% of worshippers nationwide, research has shown.
Many go to black-led churches such as Glory House
in east London which regularly attracts 600
people to its Sunday service with half that
number also attending the mid-week evening
Set up by Nigerian immigrants in 1992 with just
45 members, Glory House now has a membership of
3,000 and is one of a new breed of churches
the UK's African and Caribbean communities.
One of Glory House's founders, pastor Jonathan
Oloyede, says the UK's rapidly-growing African
communities are contributing to the growth of black-led churches.
Like the Caribbean immigrants of the 1950s and
1960s, the more recent African arrivals also
bring with them a deep-rooted church culture, the
"Christianity in Africa is big in terms of lots
of people going to church. Another factor is we
have a strong, very vibrant ministry that is an
outreach to the family and young families, so
church is not just something you attend, it's
part of your life."
New figures from the Christian Research
Association show that over the last five years
black church membership has grown by around 18%
compared with a 5% drop for churches nationally.
There is some evidence of racism in all
denominations, the Americans call it 'white
Bishop Joe Aldred
The editor of the research Peter Brierley says
along with black-led churches, Pentecostalism -
where more than a third of worshippers in the UK
are black - is one of the few Christian growth
"Across the UK more churches are closing more
than they're opening. The growth rate we are
seeing in the UK largely comes from the ethnic
minority groups," Mr Brierley said.
Black majority churches are not only successful
at attracting worshippers, many are hugely
financially successful too, in stark comparison
to many of the UK's traditional churches.
Glory House church had a turnover of nearly £1.5m
last year much of it in the form of tithes -
donations by members of around 10% of their
But the success of black-led churches is not an
even picture, according to Bishop Joe Aldred,
black church spokesman for Churches Together in
Britain and Ireland.
Newer churches are prospering, he says, but some
of those started by Caribbean immigrants in the
1950s and 1960s face decline.
And he points out most black people in the UK
attend mainstream churches with many in urban
areas having a majority of ethnic minority
"The church where I am pastor in Birmingham, if
you go back 25 years was overwhelmingly a white
Baptist church. Fast forward to today and 98% of
its members are black.
"There is some evidence of racism in all
denominations, the Americans call it 'white
as the blacks move in, the whites move out," Dr Aldred says.
But in spite of their successes black-led
churches often find themselves the subject of a
disproportionate number of negative stories in
the media, says Dr Robert Beckford who lectures
on diasporan religions and cultures at the
University of Birmingham.
"It's rare that you find an unbiased analysis of
black life in general and black church life in
There is still misunderstanding and
misinformation about black-led churches Pastor
Jonathan Oloyede, Glory House church
"Scandals within the Catholic church or within
Anglicanism never get the same kind of negative
reaction that a black case will, even if it's an
isolated one," Dr Beckford says.
That's a view shared by Katei Kirby of the
African Caribbean Evangelical Alliance, which
speaks on behalf of many of the UK's black
churches. She points to a spate of stories which
she says wrongly linked black churches with
high-profile child abuse and witchcraft cases.
"The phone calls we had from some journalists
were making unexplainable links between
Christianity, witchcraft and black culture.
"What we've been desperately trying to do is make
people understand that Africans in Britain,
Caribbeans in Britain whether they go to a
black-led church or not are making a significant
contribution to society.
"Those things don't make the headlines because
they don't sell papers or increase viewing," Ms
However, Jonathan Oloyede of Glory House thinks
the black churches will eventually find
"I think we're still budding, still blossoming,
still maturing. In the coming years many of the
black churches are going to start integrating
with mainstream society but for now there is still
misunderstanding and misinformation about black-led churches," he says.