03 June 2014
Churches to come together in Caledonian Park
A flagship community event is set to take place in Caledonian Park, Islington, on 7 June, which will draw together around 30 churches from the area.
Known as Life Festival 2014, it is the initiative of the Ethiopian Christian Fellowship which meets in King's Cross. Its aims are evangelistic, part of which is to encourage other churches to reach out, but they also want to demonstrate and celebrate their unity and diversity in Christ with both diaspora and indigenous churches in their locality.
Pastor Girma Bishaw, who leads the church, strongly believes the time has come for diaspora and indigenous churches in the UK to come together. "It's not only time to think outside of the box, it's time to come out of the boxes we have created. The diaspora churches are doing their own thing trying to reach people of their own ethnicity. The indigenous churches are doing the same. This is also seen in wider society. Multiculturalism is not working. It has created disintegration and encouraged communities to form their own ghettos."
The church, which is made up of Ethiopians and Eritreans, has been focused for a long time on reaching their own ethnicities. However, in 2012 they started working with missionaries from South Africa and Eritrea who helped them find ways to reach out to the local community. One initiative involved opening the church up to serve free teas and coffees to people. "The experience surprised us greatly," said Girma. "It showed us that the barriers we thought existed to prevent us from reaching out to different communities were not as strong as we thought they would be. People are open and the harvest is ready.
"It also taught us we can't do it on our own. We saw how effective we were when we worked with others and how the variety of the group demonstrated the kingdom of God to the world. Therefore the diaspora church needs to realise that we are not only to reach out to our own ethnicity but to reach out to all and be a blessing to this nation."
Help in organising the festival is being provided by different church leaders and ministries, including Pentecost festival, African Fellowship and Crossing London. Churches representing around 10 different nationalities from Asia, Africa, South America and Europe are taking part as are indigenous Anglican and Baptist churches.
The festival will be presenting an eclectic blend of music, culture and food from around the globe, celebrating the rich diversity in Islington. The music will include talented performers of gospel, soul, blues and R&B from both the UK and overseas. There will be a children's zone, a marquee where speakers will be giving testimonies of changed lives and stands providing information about local businesses.
Girma believes that the diaspora Christians who are in the UK are a mission force who can be instrumental in the work of evangelism in this country, but for this to happen the connection between the diaspora and indigenous churches has to be created.
"Connecting diaspora churches with the indigenous churches has to be taken seriously. We cannot continue to do what we are doing now and expect to see the future that we would like to see. That's where this life festival comes in. Unity and connection are expressed when we are engaged together in working on a task. Many diaspora churches are already involved in this festival and it's an opportunity for indigenous churches to get involved and demonstrate to the world the nature of the kingdom of God, which is unity within diversity."