SUNNY GEORGE likes to think of his story as one that mirrors the resurrection of Jesus. An old and mostly empty church at the heart of Leicester’s Asian community was closed down in 2010 because it had too few worshippers.
Two years later, Mr George persuaded the diocese to re-open it as All Saints’, aiming to reach out to the Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs who live near by. The church is just a stone’s throw from the largest Hindu temple in the East Midlands.
“Jesus was raised on the third day,” Mr George says. “The church was re-opened in the third year. And it’s a parish called Resurrection — I said to the diocese ‘Isn’t it ironic that a church lies dying in the parish of the resurrection?’”
Licensed as an evangelist since then, Mr George has seen the congregation grow to 150 people. About a fifth of his congregation are Sikhs and Hindus who have converted.
“People have got to know our story, and they have got to know Jesus’s story,” he says. “My grandfather was a Sikh, my grandmother was a Muslim, and my wife was a Hindu — so I’m able to listen to their stories, and have something personal to tell them.”
He never intended to become a priest, and was instead teaching at an engineering college when a group of Asian Christians came to him and asked him to become their pastor. As the ad hoc group grew, Mr George realised that he needed a structure and a building, and so persuaded the diocese to give him the closed church.
Mostly, his congregation has grown through word of mouth, as Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims find their prayers answered at All Saints’, and begin to tell their friends. “They know that this church has been reopened by God himself; so they know there must be something special about this place,” he says.
Now, the church was reaching out more to the community, by offering free science, maths, and music classes. It will soon open a foodbank. Since his ordination, Mr George is splitting his time between All Saints’ and Leicester Cathedral, but “evangelism remains my first love,” he says.
Sunny George was ordained deacon in Leicester Cathedral on 28 June, and is serving his title at All Saints’, Belgrave, in Leicester, and at Leicester Cathedral.