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The church's big challenge

NEW GENERATION: Today’s church attracts a different community

BLACK HISTORY Month provides the black Christian community with an opportunity to do some major reflection upon its role and whether or not it is living-up to its potential as a leading institution.

Wherever you travel to within the black diaspora – whether it is Africa, the Americas or Europe, you’ll always find that religion and predominantly Christianity, play a major role in the lives of black folk. This is true of the black community in the UK.

During the first wave of black immigration to Britain from the Caribbean during the 1950s and '60s, the church – many of which started in living rooms – became a home away from home for many, providing a sense of community and a place where Caribbean people could get a respite from living in a racist society, as well as the spiritual encouragement and support they needed.

Fast forward to the 21st century and the church retains a similar role to the '50s and '60s, but now with additional expectations from congregants.

The black community has come a long way since the Windrush Generation first started arriving here in Britain in 1948. We are more educated, more aspirational, have become part of major British institutions and seen as a people group that are here to stay.

ENTREPRENEURIAL

This very fact was highlighted at the London 2012 Olympics, when scenes of black people arriving in London from the Caribbean were featured in the games’ opening ceremony.

Today’s black Christians have come a long way, too. They seek to achieve much more than the previous generation, and are more entrepreneurial and keen to attend churches that not only provide spiritual guidance, but will also encourage them to develop themselves and strive for their ambitions. Much of the entrepreneurial activity currently taking place in the black community is being fuelled by Christians who, buoyed by their faith, believe wholeheartedly that there is nothing wrong with generating wealth and that God is helping them in their efforts so they can be a blessing to others. These are good developments.

However, one key area where people take issue with the church is, in their view, its lack of community activism and its seeming refusal to take the lead in combatting the ills that plague our community such as youth violence, racism within the criminal justice system and youth unemployment. For some, this is a major failing as the church is the most well-resourced institution within the black community.

With our churches being increasingly filled with Millennials, this is the time for church leaders to seize the moment and take the steps towards redressing community issues.

The challenge facing the church in years to come is whether it can, like its American and South African counterparts, rise up and provide leadership in and out of the church. I think it can, but only time will tell.

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