15 December 2016
Member of the Month: Bethany Church
How long has Bethany Church been going?
Twenty one years ago Rev T.M.I Sathiyaraj came as a missionary from Sri Lanka to work with the growing Tamil community fleeing civil war between Tamil and Sinhalese people in Sri Lanka, and making their home in Southall, west London.
In the ministry, the first person who came to Christ was a Sinhalese. Other believers converted from Buddhism and Hinduism and eventually Bethany Church was planted to serve people from both the Tamil and Sinhalese communities. The church was the first in Europe to serve both Tamil and Sinhalese people, demonstrating how the love of God and the unity of the Church can help overcome division and how God's people can worship together in harmony.
Why are you a member of the Evangelical Alliance?
We like to be involved in the wider Christian community and the Evangelical Alliance is one of the best ways we can be connected to other Christians and church communities in the UK. This gives us an opportunity to stand strong as one alliance to represent the Christian community in the nation.
What does church life look like for Bethany Church?
Bethany Church continues to work faithfully in Southall, which is one of the most religiously diverse areas in the UK. We work with lots of people doing lots of different things, from seniors to youth and children's work, supporting women who have suffered from domestic violence, and providing opportunities for people to go on trips and holidays who would otherwise not get a chance to go away. We work in detention centres, prison ministries and street pastors. We really value working with other established organisations who are serving our community.
What are the biggest challenges to your local community?
We are serving three generations of the Sri Lankan community, from the first generation who migrated here and who are steeped in Sri Lankan culture, through to second generation who experience life as half Sri Lankan and half British, to the third generation who were born here and are fully immersed in British culture. The older generation fear losing their cultural context, but the younger generations want church to be more British. One thing all generations have in common is rice and curry!
How can Christians across the UK be praying for Bethany church?
We would love for Christians to pray that we would be able to have our own building. The privileges of having our own building include multiple services and freedom to have an open church where we could expand our ministries. We love to serve food after every service – something we've done since we started the church 21 years ago. Not having a building of our own means it's harder to find the space where we can do that and support our community in that way. Southall is home to the second biggest gurdwara in the world, which serves food 24 hours a day. For the people coming out of that culture and into the Church, not having that kind of service is something they really miss. So we would love to find a building that we can be rooted in and establish and serve our Lord.
If you, your church, or your organisation would like to explore becoming a member of the Alliance, you can find out more on our membership page.