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Woman uses Facebook to tell story of biggest black church

THEN AND NOW: (left) Sharon as a young church member in the 1980s and (right) her today.

THE PENTECOSTAL church is for many, the representative face of Britain’s black Christian community.

Although it is a branch of Christianity that is strict and dominates its members’ lives, it also helps raise some very fervent, God loving Christians.

Now one devout churchgoer has launched a Facebook page called COGOP….The Golden Years. The page is aimed at celebrating and honouring Britain’s Pentecostal heritage by giving past and present members of the Church of God of Prophecy (COGOP), and other interested parties, an opportunity to reflect, reminisce and share their thoughts on the impact that Pentecostal churches have had.

The page was started by Sharon Ruth Ward (nee Madden), formerly a member of the COGOP in Sheffield, following the death of her father last April.

“Whilst preparing for his funeral we came across some pictures taken in Brighton at youth camps and various church activities” she said “I thought it would be good to put them on Facebook for a laugh and see what the response would be. It also lightened the atmosphere for us as a family while we were going through our bereavement.”

COGOP…The Golden Years has quickly become a virtual church on Facebook. Fellow COGOP members have posted their favourite hymns and preaching video clips, and they also use the page to talk about the highs and lows of growing up in the church.

The page has also discussed topical issues such as domestic violence, marriage, and disciplining children. Some topics have attracted over 650 comments.

The page’s success has taken Sharon, who now lives in Malta, by surprise. “I never dreamed that this group would grow to over 1000 members. I thought that it would be just a phase” she said.

“Maybe they want to celebrate the legacy of COGOP in their lives, I just don't know. But from the topics that have been discussed it has been very interesting and sometimes educational.”

A Christian since the age of 11, Sharon has mixed feelings about her upbringing. She loved the sense of unity, the worship services, and visiting other congregations and the youth camps.

However she disliked the strict rules about clothing and having to go to Sunday evening services that finished at 10pm.

One thing the page does highlight is how far Pentecostal churches have moved since the 70s and 80s.

Back then, the church had a strong hold on people’s lives, dictating what they wore, how they socialised, and sometimes even influencing where they worked and who they married. Thankfully it’s not like that any more.

Sharon’s key hope is that the page serves as a point of reference, for the COGOP and the wider black Christian community.

“My aim for the page is to keep our memories of growing up in COGOP and remember where we have come from and what has shaped us to what we are today and also honour our forefathers.”

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