The last two days have been very interesting and encouraging. I'll try to fill you in bits.
First of all, I attended a local event on intercessory worship yesterday. This will not surprise those of you who have read Forming Intentional Disciples and know that 1 of the 4 "first things" that truly evangelizing parishes do is "Lay the spiritual foundation of intercessory prayer".
Anyway, Pete Grieg, the "accidental" founder of a contemporary global movement of 24/7 prayer, lives in London and noted, as an aside, that the "tide was turning in London." So when I got home, I did the Google thing, and found this most surprising piece in the Church of England newspaper that begins:
"Sit down, breathe deeply – I have some shocking news to give you. The church in Britain is growing."
An international team of leading researchers, based at Cranmer Hall, Durham, have just published a study entitled Church Growth in Britain from 1980 to the Present. Here are just a few of the extraordinary statistics that have been unearthed:
- There are 500,000 Christians in black majority churches in Britain. Sixty years ago there were hardly any
- At least 5,000 new churches have been started in Britain since 1980 – and this is an undercount. The true figure is probably higher
- There are one million Christians in Britain from black, Asian and other minority ethnic communities
- The adult membership of the Anglican Diocese of London has risen by over 70 per cent since 1990.
"Some parts of the mainline churches are seeing growth – Anglican growth centres on the Diocese of London (the one Anglican diocese which has consistently grown over the last 20 years) and new Anglican churches/fresh expressions."
And a little of it is rubbing off on Catholics: "In the Catholic Church, there were 1,657,644 attending Mass in 2008, compared with 1,654,556 the year before. (A gain of about 3,000). Contrary to previous years, the researchers are putting the rise down to "home-grown Catholics" rather than immigration from catholic countries like Poland.
Immigration, deliberate evangelization, and the imaginative leadership of local bishops who insisted on placing Anglican priests based upon their competence at mission, not maintenance, are two of the prime catalysts of Christian growth in London.
The book does have a section on Catholic growth in the east-end of London, which may reflect Polish immigration. But since I haven't been able to read the book yet - I'm not sure.