The Sights and Sounds of Pentecostalism's Surprising Growth in Europe
“You should come visit our church, our pastor is an American too,” the street evangelist I had stumbled across told me on a Barcelona sidewalk two years ago. I wasn’t sure if I was misunderstanding his Spanish or if what he was saying was really true, so the next day I went to the address on the tract he had given me and discovered a vibrant church filled with immigrants from the Americas led by a lanky young white man whose accent betrayed his Midwestern roots. Pastor Nathan Harrod had come to Barcelona a few years earlier to be a missionary and help re-evangelize Europe. And so began my journey into Pentecostalism.
As an atheist, the last place you might expect me to spend time at is in church, let alone an evangelical one. But for the last eight years I’ve been working on The Europeans, a photographic documentary project exploring how Europe and its people are changing. As I dug deeper it became clear to me that the spread of Pentecostalism and how that spread is intertwined with immigration and migration, both of people and ideas, was an interesting manifestation of the change I was seeking to visualize.
Over the course of eighteen months I spent time in Pentecostal churches in Spain, England, and Ukraine photographing and interviewing pastors and parishioners alike in my attempt to understand why this particular strain of Christianity is growing while many others are dying on the vine. Part of the reason are enthusiastic missionaries from the United States, Africa, and parts of the developing world who come to Europe to win back the continent for Christ (as they put it). Europeans may be increasingly secular, but unlike the Chinese, for example, most Europeans have a cultural background that is Christian. They understand the broad concepts and have likely spent some time, even if it is just for holidays, weddings, and funerals, in a church.
Pentecostalism’s other appeal is the personal nature of the worship. Pentecostals are far less concerned with the rote repetition of liturgy than in forging a deep and personal connection with God, usually through prayer. Couple a vibrant worship service with novel features like live music and dancing and you have a Christianity that is much more appealing than that which is practiced in the hard pews of Europe’s monumental cathedrals.
All images copyright Damaso Reyes.
A moment of ecstasy.
A parishioner receives a blessing during services at Los Pentecostals de Barcelona.
Singing and praying at Los Pentecostals de Barcelona.
Three young women join hands in prayer. Unlike Catholicism, Pentecostalism is attracting many young worshipers.
Pastor Nathan Harrod of Los Pentecostals de Barcelona prays on stage during a regional gathering.
A grandmother lays hands on her grandson during a service.
A father and daughter help inaugurate a new Pentecostal church in Tarragona near Barcelona.
An assistant pastor prays with a congregant in Barcelona.
Former drug addicts participate in a church-sponsored soccer league. Social services are one reason Pentecostal churches have become popular in Ukraine.
A parishioner dances during a Pentecostal church service.
A woman kneels in prayer.
A Pentecostal minister casts out demons during a revival in Kiev.
A Pentecostal worshiper lies onstage after having a demon cast out of her during a revival service in Kiev.
The Internet helps spread the gospel in Ukraine.
Faith healing during a Pentecostal revival in Kiev.
Pentecostalism is very much a family affair with many congregations comprised of several generations of one family.
Even in large gatherings like Pentecost 2012, the focus is in on each person's direct connection with God.
A young worshiper is overcome by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost 2012 in London.
The Redeemed Christian Church of God has a goal of creating a church within a ten minute walk of every person in England. As a result they have created many small, and sometimes empty, parishes.
For Pentecostals, prayer is a key element to creating a direct relationship with God. At Shekhinah much of each service is devoted to prayer.
This project was funded by the Annenberg School of Communication’s Knight Luce Fellowship for Reporting on Global Religion.
May 29, 2013
Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Damaso Reyes began his career as a stringer for the New York Amsterdam News where he was an intern and later served as Southeast Asia Bureau Chief from 2001 to 2003 reporting from Indonesia as that nation transitioned to democracy.
His images and articles have appeared in publications including: The Wall Street Journal, The New York Daily News, The Village Voice, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Miami Herald, New York, Vanity Fair Germany, World Policy Journal, Der Spiegel, and Time Asia. Previous assignments and projects have taken him to countries including Rwanda, Iraq, Cuba, Indonesia, Tanzania and throughout the United States and Europe. His images are featured in the monograph Black: A Celebration of a Culture and the book Innocents Lost: When Child Soldiers go to War.
Visit Damaso online here.European Union, Spain, Ukraine