‘Glocal’ and integrated churches within a practical theological imagination of ‘home away from home’: towards a ministry of migrants and refugees in diaspora

Vhumani Magezi


Migration has become a major global challenge in recent years. Host countries’ responses to migrants are varied – some accommodate and integrate migrants, others are apathetic, and migrants face exclusion and violent rejection. This suggests that host countries have developed mechanisms to cope with the challenges posed by migrants. Migrants have also developed systems to mitigate the impact of the challenges they encounter, such as the establishment of churches in their host countries. These churches may be referred to as ‘glocal churches’. Typically, members of these churches are migrants who originate from the same country. As such, they use their native language during church services, and church activities resemble those of their country of origin. These churches provide spaces where migrants can feel that they are at ‘home while away from home’, and provide opportunities where migrants can support one another in issues that they may encounter. Theological reflection and ministry on migration discussions have focused on churches in migrant receiving nations, with most discussion centring on exclusion and the inhospitable aspects of host nation churches. These discussions, however, often overlook the contribution of migrants to their exclusion through the formation of exclusive ‘glocal’ churches. In view of this, this article considers a practical theological imagination of ‘home away from home’ as a migrant-theological and ministry-informing approach and draws on the theological notion that all humans are foreigners (or migrants – homo viator) in whichever life spaces they exist. This study argues that this approach provides a crucial nexus and challenge for church ministry integration in contexts of migration and challenges countries to be hospitable based on Imago Dei (theology) and human dignity (human rights) principles. It is argued that maintained Imago Dei and human dignity provide a critical link between churches and a nation. Furthermore, the notions of ‘inclusiveness’ for host people and ‘home away from final eschatological home’ for migrants provide a practical theological imagination that challenge a host country’s citizens to positively consider migrants and migrants to avoid self-exclusion practices and establish integrated churches and communities. 


Church and migration challenge; migrants and refugee ministry; migrant churches; migrants coping in diaspora; operative ecclesiology; practical theology of home; refugee crisis and church response; theology of migration; inclusive churches


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