Christianity in U.K. sees 'seismic shift' as Pentecostal and charismatic churches thrive, replacing aging churches

Hillsong Church London holds four services, attended by 8,000 people, every Sunday at the Dominion Theatre.(Hillsong Church London)

Christianity in Britain is seeing a "seismic shift" as more aging churches are closing down and giving way to new and vibrant Pentecostal and charismatic churches that are drawing more and more people of various ages and races.

Assessing the state of Christianity in Britain, a recent Religion News Service report pointed out that in the past six years, 168 Church of England churches have closed, along with 500 Methodist and 100 Roman Catholic churches.

But even as aging Church of England congregations decline, charismatic churches are sprouting and welcoming new members into their fold.

According to an analysis by The Times of London, for every Anglican church that has closed over the past six years, more than three Pentecostal or charismatic churches have taken their place.

Unlike the old churches, the Pentecostal and charismatic churches are drawing people of all ages and races, including black, Asian and mixed-race people.

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In fact the Pentecostal church is considered as one of the fastest growing Christian churches in the world, with an estimated 500 million followers, the report said.

The Pentecostal church is reportedly bringing renewed hope to many people in Britain as attested by its growing membership.

"I am optimistic that we will see this nation come back to God," said Pastor Agu Irukwu of the Redeemed Christian Church of God. The Pentecostal group, founded in Nigeria, now has 600 congregations across England.

"A century ago the face of European Christianity could have been labeled as white, but now it is increasingly becoming multicoloured," Israel Olofinjana, a Nigerian-born minister in London, told the Times.

One of the things that draw people to Pentecostal and charismatic churches is the lively atmosphere inside these churches.

For instance, Hillsong Church London holds four services, attended by 8,000 people, every Sunday at the Dominion Theatre.

"It feels like God's nightclub, with love songs to Jesus," said one young African who attended an evening service.

The new churches also serve as haven for Christian immigrants from Eastern Europe, especially Poland, where Catholicism is the predominant religion.

"There's been a seismic shift," said Robert Beckford, a professor of theology at Canterbury Christ Church University. "Christianity in Britain has become much more ethnically diverse as a result of migration from West Africa, Eastern Europe and, to a degree, Latin America."

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