Norwich churches get boost from migrants
By Keith Morris
2007: Hundreds of asylum seekers, refugees and other migrants are swelling church congregations across Norwich
African and Chinese congregations exist in Norwich churches and hundreds of people from the Philippines, India and Africa have boosted the congregation at Norwich’s Catholic Cathedral from a weekend average of around 800 up to 1200.
Transforming Norwich, which represents Churches Together in Greater Norwich, has sent a survey to church leaders to try to collect more information on the subject.
John Dubbey, who has sent out the survey, said: “As most of the countries from which the visitors came to England are Catholic we would expect the major recipients would be the Catholic churches.
“The newcomers have been welcomed by the Catholic Cathedral which has received an extra third mainly from the Philippines, India and West Africa, while St George’s Catholic Parish has received an influx from Poland, Lithuania and India.
“These Catholic churches are providing settings for nationals of a particular country to meet with each other and in time will integrate more with the local congregations. As examples of local welcome, the Catholic Cathedral held an overseas festival in April and St George’s is translating sections of the Bible into Polish for worship purposes.”
The Catholic Cathedral is now holding fortnightly Polish masses.
New Hope Christian Centre
has run an African-style worship service for the past five years on the third Sunday of each month at 5pm. Attendees come mainly from Southern Africa with some from Iraq
John Betts, from New Hope, said: “We get up to three dozen people from across Norfolk and Suffolk. We aim to create a home from home for African people who worship in a different way from most English people. We want them to be able to express themselves in a thoroughly African way.
“A lot of these people are in caring professions and often get offered extra money to work on Sundays which is hard for them to refuse. They are also in need of transport to maintain a consistent Sunday attendance.”
There is a remarkable Chinese congregation which meets at Wroxham Road Methodist Church. This is attended by about 60 Chinese who have lived in Norwich for some years, mostly working in restaurants. The fellowship began through one converted man, a restaurant proprietor who encouraged his friends towards commitment to Christ.
The Methodist Church provides premises for meetings on Sunday and for mid-week Bible studies. The church is hoping to employ a salaried Chinese pastor to lead this section and also to minister to the many Chinese students in Norwich.
Over 30 men from Eastern Europe, only half speaking English, have found their way to the services of the Salvation Army in Norwich.
Norwich Vineyard has recently seen new visitors from Nigeria and the Congo.
“There are no statistics yet available concerning Africans and West Indians coming into Norwich, but clearly there is a considerable increase,” said John Dubbey. “From the experience of churches who have welcomed Africans into their congregations, and my own experiences in Southern Africa, there is much more inclination among Africans than among the British to take matters of faith seriously and attend church regularly.
“Because of this importance attached to church, any such newcomers will expect to be warmly received, especially by the leader, visited in their homes, given information about the life of the church and facilities available in the country and, where necessary, to be given help with transport,”
But he said: “It needs to be recognized that many of these people have come to this country understandably to earn money and that the temptation of double overtime on Sundays can be stronger than that of attending church.”
He concludes: “At present, it would seem that any church which actively campaigns to attract this more open and needy new population will be warmly welcomed.”
Different churches have also reported regular commitment from students at UEA and these provide a great opportunity for mission work both now and on return to their homes.
To help provide a warm welcome to Norwich for visitors from other countries John Dubbey from Transforming Norwich is looking to compile a list of local Christians who can speak foreign languages and who are prepared to be of assistance if necessary.
If you can speak a foreign language or have more information about overseas attendees at Norwich churches to help his research, please e-mail John at email@example.com