Britain’s oldest Black Church celebrates 60th Anniversary

Britain’s oldest black Pentecostal denomination, the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) will celebrate its 60th anniversary Jubilee in August 2012 at their recently refurbished 2,000 seater headquarters in Luton, Bedfordshire.

The celebrations will run from 24th to 27th August 2012 and feature live worship services, a music concert, a video presentation and contributions from special guests.   

Bishop Alvin Blake, head of COGIC stated: “COGIC has a great cultural and spiritual heritage in Britain. For almost 60 years we’ve been proclaiming a gospel of hope, and seen many people’s lives positively changed as a result. During this year of celebration we will be reflecting on our history and achievements as well as looking to the future.”

COGIC UK was started in 1948 by members of the Windrush Generation, Bishop Oswald and Mary McLachlan, who were a part of the first wave of Jamaican migrants to come to the UK in the late 1940s.  

They initially started church services in their home in Stoke Newington, north London.

COGIC UK became an official church denomination in 1952 when the founder of its American counterpart, Bishop Charles Harrison Mason, formally inaugurated the organisation during a visit to London to attend the World Pentecostal Conference.  

The US branch of COGIC is America’s largest black denomination, and has over six million members, plus an additional one million members around the world.

COGIC UK became a prominent force in black Christian circles under the leadership of Bishop Robert Clifford Bell, who led the church between 1963 and 1998.  

The denomination now has 21 branches throughout Britain. Aside from being a beacon of hope in their local communities, COGIC has impacted the wider black Pentecostal church movement in the UK through the lives of individual members who are renowned both within and outside the denomination.  

COGIC’s National Choir also played a part in introducing UK audiences to the black church and the power of gospel music. It was the first black gospel choir to be featured on BBC TV’s Songs of Praise and was heavily featured in the historic Songs of Praise broadcast from Southwark Cathedral in 1984.  

Anniversary celebrations and events will be held throughout 2012. COGIC will officially participate in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee BIG Lunch on 3rd June 2012.  The church will also be utilising social media to augment their celebrations.

A COGIC Diamond Jubilee Heritage Page has been set up to encourage past and present members to share memories of their experience being part of COGIC, as well as reach out to former members of COGIC’s Mass Choir.

Rev Clevere Fenty, the Chair of COGIC’s Jubilee Organising Committee said: “I have great memories of the church – of its lively services, the great singing and music and more importantly, the various people whose lives the church has transformed through its gospel message. All these things and more will be looked on during our celebrations, but more importantly we will be celebrating our youth, looking to the future and looking at new ways to reach our broken communities.”

Rev Fenty has been a member of the Church since 1966.