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25 July 2013

Black and ethnic minority Christians lead London Church growth

The number of people going to church on a Sunday in London has leaped by 16 per cent, which means that a quarter of England's churchgoers are worshiping in London. The figures were revealed by the London Church Census covering the period 2005 to 2012, and show that the growth is driven by London's ethnic diversity.

The census, commissioned by London City Mission, found that two new London churches opened every week in the seven year period and two thirds of those were Pentecostal black majority churches (BMC) and a third catered for a particular language or ethnic group (such as Polish Lutheran or Ghanaian Seventh-Day Adventist).

While 300 existing churches in London closed in the seven years after 2005, some 1,000 new ones were started. Of these new churches, 93 per cent were still in existence after 5 years, against 76 per cent elsewhere.

Growth is strongest in the parts of London that already have large churches or have significant African and/or Caribbean populations. Southwark, Lambeth and Newham saw at least a 25 per cent growth of new churches. Church attendance in these boroughs also grew over the same period, with Southwark and Lambeth seeing a 50 per cent growth and Newham growing by a third.

The report claims that 720,000 people in London are going to a Sunday church service, nearly 100,000 more than the last count seven years ago.The diverse congregations filling London's churches on a Sunday now represent a quarter of all English churchgoers, with 8.8 per cent of Londoners going to church each week (nearly 10 per cent in inner London) compared with 5.6 per cent of people in the rest of England.

Nearly half of churchgoers in inner London (48 per cent) are black, 28 per cent in London as a whole, compared with 13 per cent of the capital's population. That means nearly one in five (19 per cent) black Londoners goes to church each week. Two-thirds attend Pentecostal churches, though the black community is represented in every denomination.

By contrast, in the rest of England the population is 90 per cent white, 2 per cent black.

The picture is not all rosy. Half of London's churches are neither large nor black majority. Their congregations make up 22 per cent of London churchgoers and in outer London particularly, many of these churches are declining in numbers. So the huge growth that's been seen in the past seven years in London's churches will not necessarily continue as the report said that much of it is a consequence of migration patterns, which may change.

Yemi Adedeji, director of the One People Comission said: "These figures are fantastic and partly as a result of migration numbers but we need to be thinking about what this means for the next generation. Will the picture be the same in the next seven years? We must address how we can maintain this encouraging growth. Let's seize the opportunity to ensure that we do not lose the next generation of Christians."

Pastor Jonathan Oloyede, senior pastor of City Chapel Beckton and convener of the Global Day of Prayer for London said: "It's encouraging to see the strength and growth of the Churches in London, but the figures also present many challenges. I hope the picture these statistics paint will encourage Christians to pray for our city, and to plan for what we will do in our local communities and churches to meet the needs of all of London's neighbourhoods."

The London Church Census was carried out by Brierley Consultancy, an organisation undertaking, interpreting and publishing research connected with the church.

Summary report(.pdf) – London Churches are growing.