Jesus Cristo é o Senhor!
At the time of writing, with Brexit possibly just weeks away, David Foster joined some of the congregation of Igreja Batista de Dereham, a vibrant Portuguese-language congregation, over coffee and bolo de arroz to find out about their life in Norfolk and their hopes and fears for the future.
The Portuguese community is well established in Norfolk, and so it turned out at Igreja Batista. Most had arrived some years before Poland and the Baltic states joined the EU, and the congregation has been meeting for over ten years.
Artur and Idalina Abreu came from Lisbon in 2001 in search of a ‘better life’. Rute Fereira came to Watton with her husband Vitor and two sons João and Joel, just as Portugal were breaking English hearts in Euro 2004. Tiago Pereira, a practice manager near Swaffham, came from Lisbon as a teenager in 2000. He is now married to Soraia, and their three boys were all born in Norfolk.
‘Church is so important for us’, said Mònica, with her Brazilian husband Jorge; ‘it has become our family.’ ‘Portugal is a family-oriented culture’, Rute added; ‘but family in Portugal are far away, they don’t know what’s going on. When you’re struggling, this is the family you turn to.’
Aided by Tiago as interpreter, I sang worship songs from Portugal and Brazil and listened to a sermon in Portuguese. But upstairs, children’s activities were happening in English. Inexorably, a generational shift is unfolding. Rute’s boys were born in Portugal, but all their schooling has been in Norfolk; Tiago’s children were all born here, as were Mònica’s youngest two.
At church and at home, the new generation are nurtured in faith and in their distinctive cultural heritage, but English is their primary language. ‘It happened first in the youth group’, explains Tiago. ‘We moved to English when the teenagers started inviting their English friends from school.’
So, what about Brexit? In Breckland District, over 64 per cent voted to leave, the highest in Norfolk after Great Yarmouth and Kings Lynn.
‘I was shocked, worried, and frustrated,’ says Rute, a teaching assistant in a residential unit for young people with learning difficulties. ‘People had been told we were taking their jobs. No, we had applied for our jobs or made our own work. We were contributing to society.’ Rumours abounded, and some had been told they would not be able to return to the UK if they returned home. Others struggled to fill in the sixty-page application for permanent residence.
Now, however, people seem more concerned about the potential economic fallout of Brexit, than about losing their right to settle in the UK. Artur, who works in construction, fears for his livelihood if a no-deal Brexit leads to recession.
‘Why should I worry about it?’ concludes Mònica. ‘The government will decide, but God has all things in his hands.’
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Faith and Politics – Book reviews
A selection of books on the theme of faith and politics.More
Where we all think alike, no one thinks very much
Tim Lenton meets some local Christians expressing their faith in the political arena.More
Aylsham High School Festival of Faith
Do God and politics mix? How will Brexit affect the Church? How does faith motivate the work of Christians in politics? Who would Jesus vote for?More
Diocese in Europe offers reassurance
Did you know that the Church of England has a Diocese in Europe? Some of their Ordinands train alongside ours through the Eastern Region Ministry Course. Charles Read asked the Diocesan Bishop, The Rt Revd Dr Robert Innes, a few questions.More
Moving beyond ‘us’ and ‘them’
When people in Norfolk ask the Revd Philip Harvey where he's from, he pauses. The pause accounts for the fact that he left Australia in 2002, then lived in Germany, Oman, Luxembourg and, since July 2017, in Sprowston (north Norwich) as curate. He shares his thoughts on the perspective this physical and spiritual journey has given him.More
People of faith in a time of uncertainty
Lee Marsden, Professor of Faith and Global Politics, University of East Anglia considers a faith response to our current geopolitical turmoil.More
Seeing Christ in those we disagree with
Bishop Alan's urges us to be counter-cultural.More
Faith and politics: what would Jesus do?
Catherine Waddams, economist and professor considers Jesus' response in the political arena.More