Indian—origin Christians who feel unwelcome in mainstream churches in Britain are forming their own small churches where they sing and pray in Hindi, Gujarati, Tamil and Punjabi to the accompaniment of ‘dhol’ and other instruments.
Ram Gidoomal, a prominent member of the Asian community and chairman of the South Asia Forum, told PTI that there were at least 200 such small churches founded by disenchanted Christians across Britain as a response to feeling of rejection.
He said there were nearly 75,000 Christians with origins in the Indian sub—continent in Britain, and many of them felt unwelcome in mainstream churches.
New migrants add to the congregations, particularly those from Kerala.
“It is important that mainstream churches welcome those who come from different cultures. There are churches who allow a song or two in Hindi or Tamil, but there are many Asian Christians who feel unwelcome,” Mr. Gidoomal, who unsuccessfully contested the London mayor election in 2000 on a Christian People’s Alliance ticket, said.
11 small churches in Wolverhampton alone
In Wolverhampton alone, there were 11 such small churches catering to Christians who did not find the right atmosphere and welcome in churches of the Church of England and other denominations.
For example, the congregation in one ‘Tamil church’ in east London grew from about 20 members to over 1,000 recently, Mr. Gidoomal said and added that often priests and church representatives from India are invited by these congregations.
He said: “We are saying that Asian Christians do exist and they are not a small number. The South Asia Forum has been set up to connect different Asian Christian groups and to represent them in interaction with the government and the mainstream churches.”
Asian Christians appear to be divided
Mr. Gidoomal added: “Asian Christians want to join mainstream churches but if they are not welcome they will then form their own fellowship. It is sad and it is a pity that those who are meant to be united by one faith appear then to be divided, that really is a tragedy.”
In the Asian Calvary Church in Wolverhampton, the service is in Punjabi and many prayers are sung to the accompaniment of traditional Indian instruments such as ‘dhol’ and harmonium.
The trend of setting up small, language or region—specific churches presents a new dimension of the experience of Indian Christians in Britain.
There are examples of new Christian migrants from India boosting the falling strength of congregations in Staffordshire, while in some churches in Wales and England, priests from Mizoram and Kerala have been invited due to shortage of priests in Britain.
Attendance in churches dwindling
Recent Indian priests to move to Britain include Reverend Kesari Godfrey from the Church of South India, and Reverend Hmar Sangkhuma from the Diocese of Mizoram. Attendance in churches has been progressively dwindling in various parts of Britain.
The 2001 census showed that fewer than one in 10 people in Wales regularly attended church or chapel.
In Staffordshire, recent migrants from various countries, including India, are helping boost congregations.
The Holy Trinity Church in Stoke hosts two groups of worshippers from North Staffordshire’s Malayali community.