The New Testament Church of God: 70 years of sharing the Gospel

Bishop Claion Grandison, National Overseer of the New Testament Church of God.

The New Testament Church of God (NTCG) is set to celebrate its 70th anniversary this week. Launched by the Windrush Generation in 1953, it is the largest black Pentecostal denomination in the UK and served as a place of fellowship for Caribbean Christians when British churches refused to accept them upon arrival to the country.

The Church will commemorate the milestone at its annual convention in Wales with special guest speakers and a celebration concert.

Christian Today spoke with Bishop Claion Grandison, National Overseer of the NTCG, to hear about the history of the Church and his vision for the Church going forward.

What does it take for a church to keep going strong for 70 years?

Strong and confident leaders. That has been one of the hallmarks of our leaders. In addition there has been a change in leadership over the years. We have had many new leaders come to the forefront and each one brings a whole new vision, which I think has kept the Church fresh.

Within our local churches, we have had some very confident and capable leaders and we have also had loyal and dedicated followers. Members have faithfully stayed within the organisation and remain loyal to the New Testament Church of God which has been a huge factor in the church's longevity.

Prayer has been another key factor, and we have always been a people of prayer in all of our churches.

Finally, I think investment in terms of our young people and the younger generation. There has always been a very vibrant and strong youth ministry over the years and I think that is what has kept us going for this period of time.

What impact do you think the NTCG has had on its congregation and the wider community over the years?

If we go right back to the beginning, seventy years ago, what the New Testament Church of God did offer its people was an alternative place of worship. It is well documented that mainstream churches did not receive us and, as a result, we had to form our own organisation.

I think the NTCG became a haven for West Indian people looking for somewhere to worship and that remains to this day. For example, we have senior citizens clubs up and down the country, and they are a place to meet and to congregate with like-minded people of faith and people from the Caribbean.

It has been a journey of meeting the needs of the people from the time of their adolescence when they came fresh off the Windrush, right up to being senior citizens. What you find is people who came from the Windrush decided to become social workers rather than just be factory workers. That was something that was encouraged from pulpits in certain settings, as was ensuring that the next generation was educated well.

What does the Windrush generation symbolise to you?

So many things - courage being one of them. The Windrush generation possessed courage and resilience; they did not give up and go back home. They were innovative people. I think that generation spoke about innovation and great strength - great emotional strength and mental strength. Unfortunately there were some who suffered mental health breakdowns and the government sent them back to their countries. But there was also a pioneering spirit - they were like the Mayflower of the Caribbean. They started a whole new society which still exists today. Anywhere you go you can see very strong West Indian Caribbeans around the country.

The NTCG has over 130 congregations across the country. Why do you think the church is so popular?

Our reach is due to outreach. Our founding Bishop, Dr Oliver Lyseight, had a vision to have a church on every corner and in 1953 that was quite the vision and statement. In terms of popularity we were actually very unpopular I would say! People saw us as a cult because there were these groups of black people who did not have proper liturgy, did not have their own building and did not do funerals! Most of our people were young so they just thought there was something dodgy about us.

However, I think what made us popular subsequently was our national conventions. We would meet every year and these gatherings have been legendary. Thousands of people would converge on one particular site, whether it was at our youth conventions in Leicester or in Brighton. Thousands would come together to worship and these annual gatherings were explosive. Our young people were always vibrant and excited about the faith and that drew so many of the young people in. This was a time when I think the New Testament Church of God paved the way for other organisations, other Pentecostal churches, and black-led churches to come and find a place within society.

What is your vision and hope for the future of the NTCG in an increasingly secular society?

The church in general has survived many kinds of revolutions - the sexual revolution, the Renaissance and other secular seasons. I personally have great hopes for the Church and for humanity. As secular as society is, there is this trivial pursuit that exists at the moment. People are looking for the next high and my hope is that the Church will offer relational and relevant reimagining faith, one that is engaging with society without being in any way compromising or offering any kind of gimmick. I think if the Church continues to be true to itself and scripture, it does not matter how secular society becomes.

Society always looks for the real after a while, especially when we have things like Covid, or other real calamities and crises. Society always looks to wherever or whoever for answers. If we are a Church that has an answer or has the answer, we will always be the faith of choice. That is my hope. That is part of our mission: being relational and relevant and reimagining, always seeking advice from God on what our approach needs to be. The mission that we have set is one that seeks to bring the heart of God closer to the heart of humanity.