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Open doors in the East End

04 July 2014


Welcome: the Bishop of Chelmsford confirms members of the Bulgarian community in Stratford, on Sunday 

Welcome: the Bishop of Chelmsford confirms members of the Bulgarian community in Stratford, on Sunday 

WHEN the Windrush immigrants arrived in Britain in the 1950s, the Church of England failed to offer them a warm welcome (News, 25 October). Sixty years later, a church in east London has opened wide its doors, with the result that a Bulgarian community has decided to join the Church of England.

On Sunday, the Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, presided at 14 baptisms and 16 confirmations of Bulgarians who worship at St Paul's, Stratford, in east London. A total of 28 were received into the Church.

The Bulgarian community started hiring St Paul's ten months ago as an Assemblies of God congregation, with about 60 to 80 members. Having built a relationship with the Anglican congregation, including doing joint mission work, their pastor decided to join the C of E.

"It was part of wanting to stay, and establish, and assimilate," said the Priest-in-Charge of St Paul's, the Revd Jeremy Fraser, on Tuesday. "They were feeling that they ought to become part of a British Church, and, through conversations, the pastor realised that it was a broad Church where being Charismatic did not stop you from being a member; nor [did] being High Catholic."

While older members of the community continue to attend a Bulgarian-language service on Friday evenings, others have joined the Sunday congregations. Mr Fraser said: "We've had a lot of African and West Indian members; so when we approached [the congregation] about the Bulgarian people, they looked back on that history of subtle racism and said, 'That is not going to happen again.' There was a wonderful warmth with which people said, 'Of course we are going to want to have them.'"

Mr Fraser described Stratford as "the place where the world comes together", and his congregation as "very diverse".

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