Toshona has been serving as a Narrowgate Team leader since March 2017. Her bright buoyant personality makes her popular with both our guests and other team members.
I was curious about her experience as someone who grew up in New Jersey in the United States of America, but has now lived in the UK for almost 5 years.
When I asked her what first brought her to the UK, her face lit up. “My husband Gary!” she replied enthusiastically. Both being keen writers, they had met on a writing website. Her passion for creative writing becomes apparent as she describes in glowing detail how amateur writers can sample each others work or even collaborate on line.
I wanted to know how Christianity is expressed differently in the USA. Since Toshona attends Lighthouse, a large pentecostal church in Salford, she found some immediate similarities to pentecostal culture in the USA. “But there are some differences,” she was quick to add. “In the States, worship is more expressive, but here people are a little more reserved”. It quickly became clear that Toshona had found coping with English reserve a little difficult at first, “But now I’ve learned to express myself as I feel;” she added with a grin.
Toshona went on to describe how it feels to be an American Christian in the UK. At first the UK looked more Christian to her than the USA, perhaps because of our more explicit Christian traditions. Nevertheless, Toshona readily confessed that she finds it harder to share her faith here than in her own native country. “ I worry about getting into trouble, because I haven’t quite figured out where the cultural boundaries are” she explained. This clearly troubled Toshona, who went on to say that she didn’t want to feel limited to simply sharing her faith within “safe” church circles.
As she describes American religious culture in more detail, a picture emerges of a people who are more tolerant of evangelistic outreach than perhaps UK people seem to be, but who still want to define spiritual realities in terms of “their own truth”, finding it hard to accept that Jesus is the only way to the Father.
Toshona clearly misses the more overt appeal to outreach that she enjoyed in the States. Simple things such as putting out flyers and offering people home Bible studies, could often lead to people attending church.
When I pointed out that In the UK people tend to negatively associate being ‘born again’ with American style evangelism, Toshona again references our British sense of reserve. In her experience the British tend to think of born again folk as running and jumping around or acting as dogmatic “goody two shoes”.
Her advice? “Walk in love. That will open doors with people.” A refreshingly simple, but valuable insight from someone who has thought long and hard about how to share her faith with people from the UK.