Are the formerly colonised set to colonise their old colonisers?
It has come to my delighted attention that African churches are increasingly sending missionaries to the United Kingdom. And that the declining number of British volunteers joining the Catholic priesthood - in Wales for instance - has meant that African priests are increasingly taking over rural parishes.
This crisis of belief, if it can be so termed, is so pervasive that churches are closing daily which means that the trend of an Africanised priesthood is only likely to grow. In the cities, London being a fine example, African Protestant and charismatic churches are also growing apace, seeking to emulate their counterparts on the continent.
We are entering an era when the welfare of the European soul shall be in the hands of the African. Europe has always had a peculiar need for Africa as a guiding light to its self awareness.
The two, African and European, in the latter's mind at least, have occupied opposed sides of a binary divide for the last couple of hundred years: black vs. white; stupid as opposed to intelligent; savage vs. civilised; backward vs. forward; lazy vs. industrious...
That Europe has become more secular is public knowledge, as is the rise of state power at the expense of the church. Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster, the leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, recently argued that 'christianity is close to being vanquished' and has little influence on government or the public here.
One of the founding ideas of colonialism, and slavery before it, was the state of the soul: Africans were supposed to have none while Europeans were blessed with a hefty, healthy one.
But this duality has been turned on its head. No sooner had some wise men in the late nineteenth century concluded that the African indeed did have a soul - a donor driven plot if there was ever one - that Europeans started denying the existence of theirs. As always, our opposed positions had to be maintained.
A Newly Built Pentecostal Church in Lagos, Nigeria
With its back to the wall, the Catholic Church is now speaking of the need to re-evangelise the West. A meeting of over 100 bishops in 2004, sponsored by the Vatican, discussed a strategy of clergy exchanges to address the crisis.
Africans having plentiful manpower in their rapidly growing churches would fill the gap in Europe while small numbers of European clergy provision Africa with their greater pastoral experience.
This of course merely represents the last gasp of a European church that is suffering from a colonial hangover and that imagines itself to be the center. The re-evangelising of the West shall not come under its auspices.
The Africans who shall increasingly take up pastoral duties here will be off-shoots of their home churches. They shall reflect a conservatism and syncretism that shall be unlike anything else the European Christian has ever encountered.
Gone will be the sleepy little churches that dot the countryside and welcome to the drive to create super churches that lay claim to large areas of their parishioners’ lives.
The Nigerian priest in Wales will look toward the African Diaspora in the cities first and then to Nigeria for inspiration of how to conduct his pastoral duties.
The local church, low on morale, and the state secularised to the point of ignoring the Christian church as a possible source of opposition (all state eyes will be on the mosque), will offer no counter balance to the most potent African presence there has ever been in Europe.
The African evangelist – many who are now being funded by congregations in Africa – will be here to lay claim to the European soul.
Part 2 of this piece runs tomorrow
MMK is a Kenyan writer. He blogs as African Bullets and Honey
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