Faith Healing in London
Photography by Thaddeus Pope
According to a report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) entitled Faith In The Nation, at a time when British society and culture is generally more secular and traditional churchgoing is in decline, new waves of migration are significantly altering the religious landscape of the United Kingdom. The IPPR report states that 4.5 million of the UK’s 6.7 million foreign-born population claim some religious affiliation – approximately a quarter are Muslim, while more than half are Christian – with African Pentecostals among the fastest-growing groups.
One of the defining features of Pentecostalism is an emphasis on the infallibility of the Bible and the inerrancy of scripture. As a result, many Pentecostals believe in divine healing, which is extensively reported in the Bible, and consider prayer and faith healing a viable alternative to conventional medicine. The growth of Pentecostal Christianity within migrant populations, especially those from Africa and Latin America, is particularly evident in larger cities, including London, where hundreds of churches now cater primarily to the religious needs of these expanding communities. I first became aware of this phenomenon while living in South London, where I began attending and photographing faith healing services at churches that accommodate predominately West African parishioners.
Though small by comparison to the “mega churches” commonly seen in the United States and elsewhere, the services I photographed in South London were joyous, intimate and energetic events with lots of praying out loud, jumping, clapping and running in the aisles. As someone who was raised in the church (even serving as an altar boy for many years), it was a privilege to attend these services and photograph such moments of intense religious experience.
All images copyright © Thaddeus Pope. All rights reserved.