Updated: Oct 15, 2020
The bulk of West Indians who came to Britain in the 1950s and 60s were Anglicans, Baptists, Methodists, and Catholics, members of the established church in the West Indies. Those who weren't were Pentecostals and belonged to the network of Independent Churches in the West Indies. The experiences of these early Christians weren’t good for when many of them went to worship at their local churches, they were largely ignored, made to feel uncomfortable and some were even told not to come back as their presence was upsetting the white congregations!
Pentecostal Christians had an all together different experience. Rather than going to their local churches to worship, they sort out other Pentecostals and started to hold 'Prayer Meetings' and later, 'Sunday Services' in each other's homes. These meetings were largely held in secret so as not to attract any attention and when they became too large, they rented premises to hold their meetings and when that too proved insufficient they ended up buying their own places of worship.
The first Black West Indian Pentecostal Church in Britain was started by this woman Mrs Mary McLachlan who in 1952 started a series of 'Prayer Meetings' in her home at 57 Navarino Road, Hackney North London. In the same year 'Mother McLachlan' as she was affectionately known, met Bishop Charles Mason the head of 'The Church Of God in Christ' (COGIC) in America. He was in London attending the World Pentecostal Conference at Westminster Hall and as a result of a meeting between them, Mason agreed to help 'Mother McLachlan with the church in London.
In 1954 'Mother McLachlan husband joined her in London and in 1957 they both attended the Church of God in Christ International Convention at the Headquarter church in America. It was there that the church in London was formally recognised as a branch of the Church in America. The church in London went on to become the main Black Pentecostal church in Britain and during the 1960s was the place Pentecostals arriving from the Caribbean would go to worship. In the later years, many of the ministers including my own father who went on to establish their own churches in Britain; first cut their teeth in Mother McLachlan's church.
Today, the Church of God in Christ is based in Luton where it is led by Bishop Alvin Blake.