At a time when large numbers of people are drifting away from formal religion, one church is bucking the trend. Huge numbers of Gypsies and travellers in England now say they’ve joined a movement called Light and Life. Those who join have given up drinking alcohol and fortune-telling. The movement, which is Gypsy-led, has grown rapidly in the past 30 years – it says up to 40% of British Gypsies belong to it. There’s no way to prove that claim, but most Gypsies and travellers will agree that there is a surge in people joining.
About 6,000 Gypsies and travellers attended the recent Church’s UK convention in the Welsh county of Carmarthenshire. One of those travellers is Diane Stephenson, a tall, blonde, motherly woman in her late 50s. She explains how a mission of French Gypsies visited the north-east of England in the early 1980s. Called Vie et Lumière on the continent, the movement had first taken hold there among Gypsy survivors of the Holocaust. “Their visit sent out a real buzz,” Diane says. “People were ringing each other, saying there’s French people here and they’ve brought this new religion.”
The rain, which has been pouring down, lets up and Diane shows off the site. The whirr of the generators provides a background to the chatter and the shrieks of the children running through the puddles near the sweet stall. Meanwhile, men are congregating in groups, talking earnestly. Among them is Peter, a goodlooking, enthusiastic and smartly dressed man in his 40s. He’s in a wheelchair after losing the use of his legs in a work accident.
“I see a great shift among Gypsies today. We’ve gone from being professional liars – and I was one of them,” he says bluntly. “Now, we don’t want to live that life no more, because the Holy Spirit’s inside us. We want to go 100% legal. That’s what happens when you’re born again,” he adds. He along with most of the other men at the convention, is now teetotal. “There is a problem with alcoholism among our people,” concedes Siobhan Spencer from the National
Federation of Gypsy Liaison Groups. “But the religion captures people who are in terrific trouble in their lives. (But) to say we’re all liars is not a true portrayal of Gypsy culture.”
Source: Alex Strangwayes-Booth, BBC News
Bible Study: Acts 19:17-20
APRIL Praise God for that as many as 40% of British Gypsies may well have adopted a vibrant, life-changing faith in Christ Jesus. Pray WIDER that this often marginalised community may become a beacon of light for the rest of the Nation