Three words that define Caribbean churches are –
Music, Celebration & Faith.

If we turn back the clock, victory for Britain, during World War II came at a social and economical cost. Once an industrial superpower, now had a shortage of manpower to run its factories and in hind-side run the economy. Industrial Britain was marred with austerity and economic restraint, such as shortage of food, rationing, shortage of infrastructure, limited medical facilities, etc. Migrants from The Caribbean, South East Asia, Africa, became the lifeline and played a vital role in its recovery. There was a wind of change in the British Isles as more and more migrants settled in the rather white suburbs. With the mass-migration came a wave of culture, colour and churches.

Post-war Britain was still recovering and was still a hostile place for migrants from the Caribbean. These were the people who we now know as The Windrush Generation. The early settlers from The Caribbean Islands who arrived at Tillbury Docks in Essex between 1948 – 1971. Not to forget, these were ordinary mums, dads and young adults with extraordinary tales to tell. They left behind their families and young children in the hope for a better future. For years, families lived separate lives. It was only natural for these migrants to feel socially, religiously and culturally isolated.

By 1950s, Caribbean churches were sprouting in the most uncommon of the places. Abandoned warehouses, bingo halls, theatres and industrial buildings witnessed an uncanny makeover like never seen before. With the ever growing congregations of worshipers from all backgrounds, Caribbean churches were no longer a place of worship – they became a piece of home, away from home. Caribbean churches gave the worshipers hope, a sense of community and belongingness in then white Britain. It provided that much-needed respite.

In the early days, the most predominant doctrine followed in the post-war Britain was Catholicism. Catholics believe in one God also found in the Trinity. The Father, the Son and the Holy-Spirit formed the anchoring pillars of the ideologies preached by the Catholic Churches, in accordance with the Bible and the Divine Positive Law, outlining the ten commandments. Catholic churches are mainly governed by the Roman Catholic Church and the Bishop of Rome, also known as the Pope. Catholicism preaches attainment of salvation through forgiveness of sins, penance, baptism and reconciliation.

Nevertheless, in 1950s, Britain witnessed a transformation of its own. With the Civil Rights Movement against legalised racism against Blacks, Irish and Asians, Britain was entering an uncharted territory. A mere school teacher, Paul Stephenson pioneered the influx of Anti-Discrimination Laws in the UK. Similar turmoil was being experienced by the migrants in America near the time. This led to a new religious movement – Pentecostalism. Pentecostalism, also known as Evangelicalism or Classic Pentecostalism, has been around since 1800s but its growth lies in the amorphous nature of the movement, disturbances, hardship and media coverage around the Civil Rights Movements in the UK and America. It based on the uniqueness of each individual’s experience with God. Unlike Catholicism, Pentecostalism embraced two new concepts – liberalism and acceptancism.

Many historians argue that Pentecostalism paved way for another informal movement in post war Britain – Charismatic movement which, brought Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists, Catholics onto one platform. Unlike Pentecostalism, Charismatic renewal does not identify itself as a religious denomination. Its followers still identify themselves as, for instances, Catholics, Methodists, etc., while maintaining their individual identity and adopting religious teachings from all different theological denominations.

Furthermore, in 1980s, Charismatic movement was followed by the Neo-Charismatic movements and a fourth wave of Pentecostalism. Where Neo-Charismatic movements is defined by the introduction of science and reasoning, latter is mainly about global responsibility, nature and thoughtfulness. Since, we’re part of the fourth wave of Pentecostalism, it is difficult to analyse it fully in context of the other Holiness movements.

Evidently, Political and Social turbulence in the UK has had a very important part to play in the rise and decline of various religious movements since mass-migration in 1940s. However, with the rise of people identifying themselves as Pentecostalists, more traditional Catholics churches are forced to adopt change. With the recent news about Rose Hudson-Wilkin, born in Jamaica and Chaplain to the speaker of the House of Commons, being consecrated as bishop of Dover, history is in the making. Pentecostalism and Charismatic renewal movements have even forced The Church of England to reach out to Black, Asian and ethnic minorities and embrace cultural change in UK’s most diverse cities.

At Destiny UK we pride ourselves in the diversity, acceptance and resilience showcase by the Caribbean people. We invite you to join us in the celebration of this uniqueness and our journey of exploring these theological treasures. From week to week, we visit, study, discuss and share our experience of these places of worship with you.

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