Saturday, 14 March 2009

BLACK CHURCH IN IRELAND

Hope for Ireland
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THE AFRICAN APOSTLES
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A welcome side-effect of the recent increase in immigration to this country has been the upsurge of black Pentecostal Churches which have sprung up over the last ten years. Many Irish towns and cities now have groups of mostly African people gathering together for fellowship and worship. The Irish Times magazine today ran a feature on this new phenomena visiting The Jesus Centre in Dublin, headquarters of the Redeemed Church of God, the largest of the African-led Pentecostal churches. The Redeemed church has 72 branches in 25 countries, while in Ireland there are an estimated 360 migrant-led churches spread throughout the country. Other denominational groups include Mountain Fire and Miracle Ministries and the Celestial Church of Christ, both part of a worldwide Pentecostal revival. The Times reporter observes ‘ Ireland is on the coat-tails of a global trend here. From the suburbs of Los Angeles to the streets of Guatemala City, Pentecostalism has been growing quicker than anyone can keep count; many think it may be the world’s fastest-growing religious movement.’ And this is all taking place in an Ireland where traditional church attendance has been in steady decline, Roman Catholic attendance dropped from a staggering figure of 87% in 1961 to below 50% in 2006.

Vibrant soulful worship
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Some of the excesses of Pentecostal practise such as their emphasis on healing and the ‘prosperity gospel’ may not sit easily with the religious sensibilities of conservative Catholics, but their vibrant song-led worship and emphasis on a personal relationship with the Creator may be just the refreshing antidote to a traditional church often weighed down with moribund religious practise. It would not be the first time that ‘the foreigner’ has been used by God to shake this nation from its spiritual slumber. In a few days the national saint, Patrick will be commemorated, the slave-boy who returned to this island with the Good News of the Gospel. It’s a matter of opinion as to how rich Patrick’s legacy is to this day, as the pure and simple message preached by him seems to hark back to the early Christian witness rather than to the present mission of the traditional churches. Patrick’s message has been carried here by the Catholic church and the minority Protestant groups, however many would feel that these institutions have lost their way and became too entrenched in the political landscape to be of much ‘gospel’ use.


Our national Apostle
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In the 1970’s there was a brief revival of New Testament Christianity as people from various backrounds ( this writer included) came under the sound of the Gospel and experienced the life-changing power of the New Birth as explained by Jesus in John’s gospel, chapter 3.Several new independent churches evolved at that time, as well as the Charismatic Movement which had a profound effect on many Catholics bringing them back to Christ and a fresh appreciation of the Bible. Also the ranks of older Protestant churches swelled as new Christians sought out places to fellowship and learn more of the Scriptures. Some Anglican churches , and Baptist and Brethren groups who embraced what God was doing at that time were revitalised by the influx of these newly converted believers. Perhaps today in these secularised times where people are faced with the uncertainty of the future and the supports of a more favourable economic era are unravelling, the Gospel may find a fresh and relevant expression through the witness of these new Black churches. The challenge for the new groups is to reach out to the indigenous Irish and share the Message beyond the confines of their own members. If they can do this we may well at a future time have occasion to celebrate their arrival among us with the same fervour as we pay to Patrick on the 17 th of March ! Certainly we need another Apostolic visitation to show us the way back to the True Path, where our worth is not determined by the Dow Jones or the latest Interest rate, but in the truth of our eternal destiny , created in the image of a Holy God. Our African brothers and sisters may yet bring more to this island than their skills and labour. As they live the lives purposed for them by the Lord, their witness can be a light in a dark place to which seeking hearts will be drawn.


Gerard O'Shea

2 comments:

Tony said...

Lets hope so!

Trevor said...

I have been thinking and praying about the effect of the Migrant church in Ireland on the Irish. Like you I believe God can greatly use these new members of our nation community to enrich our spiritual experience.Thank you for raising this issue and reminding us, as believers to support and welcome our new 'family' in Christ.