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|Migration Histories > Caribbean > Culture and Festivals|
|Worship for Caribbeans in Britain|
Social life in small Caribbean communities tended to centre round the church, and Caribbean migrants in Britain missed the texture and warmth of the religious experiences they were used to. British churches all too often seemed to be reflecting the prejudices of their white congregations. As a result many migrants abandoned their normal church-going habits, and the atmosphere was ripe for an emergence of familiar patterns of Pentecostal and revival meetings.
The English climate and geography, however, didn't favour open air meetings on the Caribbean model, and groups, usually led by self-selected and charismatic individuals, began holding church services in their front rooms at home, or clubbed together to hire public rooms for the purpose.
By the end of the 1960s there was a well-established network of Black churches throughout the country. On a typical Sunday whole families would pile into a mini van and go to church wherever that might be. Often they took their food with them: fried chicken and fish, dumplings and yams, the sort of food they would have eaten in the Caribbean. Sometimes they would attend two services and a Sunday school session before returning home. Listen to Cecil Holness talk about the links between the church and school.
Small communities scattered around the country benefited most from this network, but it gave the entire Caribbean community a sense of stability. At a time when migrants were under severe psychological pressure and distrusted the official services, or were misunderstood when they went to them, the Black church groups offered invaluable advice and comfort.
Over the next two decades, however, the popularity of the Black Pentecostal and revival churches helped to bring them into line with the established churches. Pentecostal congregations took over Anglican churches which were closing down or built their own halls, and the churches began to establish their own regulatory bodies to licence and support their ministers.
The Black churches also brought a distinct new flavour to the style of worship in established churches. Gospel choirs, for instance, have begun to be a staple element in ecumenical gatherings and have encouraged the re-emergence of popular church choirs, as well as stimulating and reinforcing the evangelical strands in the nonconformist denominations in Britain.
Creators: Mike Phillips
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