Father Happy Jacob has a reason to be cheerful. When he started St Thomas’s Indian Orthodox Church in Liverpool in 2002, his congregation numbered about 60 families and stayed at that level for almost two decades.
Then, a few years ago, things began to change. “We have seen a massive increase in families coming to the church,” says Jacob, 48. At his last count, there were 110 families, with worshippers including NHS workers, international students, and about 100 school-age children.
This story is being repeated across Britain. From Liverpool to London, Preston to Bristol, church congregations are being bolstered by Indian Christians. Most are from southern states such as Kerala and Tamil Nadu, where Christianity is strong. Many have recently moved to the UK.
The boom is in sharp contrast to the national trend. According to the latest census, Christianity is in decline in England and Wales: the portion of the population describing itself as Christian has fallen from 59.3% in 2011 to 46.2% in 2021. But the number of Indian Christians has surged over the same period.
While they remain a small portion of the total number – about 27.5 million –who say they are Christian, the Indian contingent rose from 135,988 in 2011 to 225,935 in 2021, the fastest rise of any ethnic group.