APPLAUSE FOR THE LORD

"The Lord is here ‘cause its herd needs him. A big round of applause for the Lord!"

Julio, pastor of the gipsy Evangelist Church of Filadelfia

(see text below)

Rooted in Spain since the XVI century and currently sedentary, the Spanish gypsies live in a world apart. Named gitanos, after an alleged Egyptian origin, they are confined to marginal neighbourhoods where they keep following their own traditions, against the rules and away from the law of the payos (non-gypsies). Surprisingly, in the last decades, something is deeply renovating this community: the spread of Protestantism. The Evangelist Church of Filadelfia, a spontaneous institution created by the gitanos following the path of the French pastor Le Cossec, is having a profound influence on the culture, the economical organization and the social issues of the Spanish gypsies. Currently, with more than 4000 churches, it is the fastest spreading religion in the Iberian Peninsula. Its 400.000 followers rank 10% of all Spanish religious believers. It is beyond question, the fact that the Evangelist movement has had a positive effect on the Spanish gypsy community and on the deviant behaviours that afflict it, such as alcoholism, drug abuse and domestic violence, thanks to the creation of projects for personal and community self-empowerment. The celebration of the iconoclastic, anti-hierarchical and libertarian spirit of the gypsies finds a space of expression in the religious mass, called El Culto. It is a mix of popular faith, mystical ecstasy and gypsy musical tradition; a loud flamenco-based party, with songs written and performed by acclaimed singer/ pastors. But there is a deeper function performed during El Culto, based on the ancestral interconnections between religion, theatre and magic. Throughout this collective ritual a show is enacted: social integration is performed and, at the same time, experienced by the audience. During the hour of El Culto, in the stage of the Iglesia, you show your respectability and you find its confirmation from the others. So one cannot be considered the black sheep of society any longer, because he's the purest lamb in the flock of the Lord. This is how an habitually mistreated community builds its self-esteem, on the path towards its redemption. "The Lord is here ‘cause its herd needs him. A big round of applause for the Lord!"