Living their faith: identity and mission among West Indian immigrants in Pentecostal churches in New York City and London
McLean, Janice Angelia
The last sixty years have seen the emergence of three particular developments that are currently exerting tremendous effects on the shape, articulation and practice of World Christianity. These are: the demographic shift in Christian adherence from the North to the South; the rapid expansion of Pentecostalism and the Charismatic movement in various places around the globe, particularly in the South; and the growth of migration from many two-thirds world nations to first world countries. In their interaction, these developments have produced a plethora of new religious expressions within World Christianity – specifically the presence of non-Western Christianity in the North. For as Non-Western immigrants migrate to the West, they bring with them a vibrant religious life which they use to navigate the terrains of the new society. This thesis delineates the experiences of West Indian Pentecostals living in New York City and London as they engage with their host societies. It explores the manner in which several generations of immigrants are constructing and re-negotiating their ethnic and religious identities. The thesis reveals that both the home country and the Diaspora context play a vital role in this process of identification. This is especially notable for the immigrant children who can be seen as constituting the frontline in terms of cultural and social change. This study also highlights the process by which ‘mission’ is being conceptualized and practiced within these Diaspora faith communities. The findings indicate that mission – its conceptualization and practice –is also a product of the West Indian and Diaspora contexts. However, this re-conceptualization is conducted within the framework of a re-definition of the local and global dimensions associated with the term. As a result, the translational process becomes one of dynamism and constant negotiation as the ideas emanating from home and the host societies are able to critique and influence each other. This thesis clearly reveals that Diaspora faith communities occupy a significant position within the lives of their members. They are sites of dynamism, where members access social and cultural capitals; maintain transnational ties; interact with the Diaspora context; and live out their faith. Therefore, this thesis argues that these faith communities function as a bridge connecting the home country and the Diaspora context, enabling their members to retain certain aspects of the ethno-religious identities and the cultures of their homelands, while equally, assisting them to adjust to, and create a place of belonging within the new society.