Rich Nathan is just about to wrap up his evening sermon when a loud and piercing shriek erupts from the back of his congregation. A woman in the crowd of 3,000 worshippers is shaking uncontrollably and wailing. “Jesus!” she cries. “Jesus I feel you!” Nearer the front of the stage, a small and equally exuberant group of faithful is receiving the Holy Spirit in other ways. Some rock from side to side, others simply mutter in hushed tones or raise their hands skywards.
It could be a scene from the American Mid-West ”“ Pastor Nathan is, after all, a prominent Jewish-born convert to Christianity who leads a church in Ohio. But today’s energetic act of mass worship is taking place in the rolling countryside of Somerset, just to the south of the picturesque town of Shepton Mallet.
As the leaders of Britain’s more mainstream denominations scratch their heads and debate how to revitalise their congregations, evangelical Christianity in Britain is going from strength to strength. The number of evangelical churches in Britain has risen from 2047 to 2,719 since 1998 and their followers now make up 34 per cent of Anglicans, figures show.