Reflections on God’s Continent
Philip Jenkins’ latest offering, God’s Continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe’s Religious Crisis, shines the spotlight on the presence of many Christians among those who have made their way to Europe from Africa, Asia, or Latin America, and from Eastern Europe to Western Europe. Some of these intentionally carry their Christian faith with them. Others have relocated for purposes of employment or education and have revitalized almost lost causes. Romanian migrants revived the ghost town of Aguaviva in Spain where over100 have settled, prompting the opening of a new Orthodox worshipping community. Aguaviva’s Romanian population is only a miniscule percentage of nearly two million Romanians, a tenth of the country’s population, who had already emigrated to Spain and Italy before Romania’s admission tithe European Union. In 2006 Romanians sent home more than ₤2 billion ($3.53 billion) in remittances to family members still living in Romania. In Bradford, England, an American branch of the Romanian Orthodox Church established a congregation in2005, and Roman Catholic parishes across the United Kingdom have been revitalized by migrant Roman Catholics from Poland. In March, 2007, Ross on Wye Baptist Church, in the heart of rural Herefordshire, England, commissioned a Ukrainian pastor to investigate the spiritual needs of the nearly 8,000 Ukrainian seasonal workers in the area. For an England vs. Russia football match, screened live at the church, there were just under 50 East Europeans from Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, Moldova, Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, and Slovakia.
These accounts of East Europeans living in Western Europe arise from recent research carried out by the Nova Research Center in England. They suggest, as does Jenkins, that Christianity in Europe, East and West, is increasingly characterized by transition and dynamism as a result of the movement of migrant people within and into Europe. Many more stories of faith being lived out in new surroundings remain to be told. F
Darrell Jackson is tutor in European Studies and director of Nova Research Center, Radcliffe College, Gloucester, England.