I have just checked the agenda for the Methodist Conference taking place from 30th June to 7th July 2011 at Southport. One thing that caught my attention was the Statistics for Mission 2008-2010. Of particular interest is the statistics for the ethnically distinct worship or congregation.
The ethnically distinct congregation or fellowships are groups which uses other languages instead of English or Welsh. Nearly a third of ethnically distinct congregation (EDC) are located in the London District. Of the three main groups reported by churches, the one reported most frequently was Ghanaian (33%), followed by Zimbabwean (27%), and then Nigerian (22%).
Using the Ghanaian Methodist Fellowship as an example, the group which has been in existence for nine years meets every second Sunday from 2.00pm to 4.00pm at Westminster Central Hall. The congregation are generally members from various local Methodist churches who wish to express themselves in the Ghanaian Methodist traditional style of worship. In as much as they try to learn and adapt the British Methodism, there is some belief that worship is much appreciated when done in one’s own language. The language used in conducting the Ghanaian Fellowship worship is Akan/ Twi. The singing, drumming and dancing are very important ingredients of the Ghanaian worship. These are not common to find in most British local churches.
Apart from the style of worship, there are other important functions ethnically distinct congregations’ offers. For instance evangelism is much easier with people of the same ethnic background. Various groups within the Fellowship such as Men’s Fellowship, Women’s Fellowship, and Choir are all tools for evangelism.
Ethnically distinct congregations are helping to reduce the "missing generation"- the 18years to 30somethings. There’s a very strong desire on the part of some immigrants to introduce their culture to the children born in the Western world. One way of doing that is to take their children to ethnic distinct worship. As they get the exposure many tend to stay in the church. By way of exposure the Ghanaian Fellowship for example have in the past years been organizing exchange programme between the youths of UK and Ghana. This has had positive effect on some youth from UK especially their attitude to church.
Ethnically distinct congregations offer some spiritual needs which aren’t common or popular in the British local churches. Activities such as prayer meetings, retreat, breakfast meetings are very popular amongst African immigrants. A recent breakfast meeting organized by the Ghanaian Methodist Fellowship was attended by over 150 members. I don’t think my 7 churches circuit could have managed that number if the circuit organized one.
Had it not been the existence of such ethnically distinct congregations many immigrants would have left the Methodist church to join the Pentecostal churches. It is therefore important that every necessary support is given to such groups to thrive. Ministers who have some immigrants in their churches should encourage them to start ethnic worship or join the already existing ones.