Ethiopian Christians in Greater Boston: Diverse Journeys
by Steve Daman
Bostonians celebrate Ethiopians each year when runners sprint up Boylston Street to the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
Ethiopians took first place in the men’s open four times in the last ten years. In 2016, Ethiopian men took the top three spots, and Ethiopian women took the top two spots in the men’s and women’s open, respectively.
But many Ethiopians in Boston have also been running another good race—that of keeping the faith.
Boston is home to 9,000 to 12,000 Ethiopians. And like other immigrant groups, Ethiopians Christians have planted various expressions of Christian churches in and around Boston, serving the needs of Ethiopians here today.
Ethiopian Christianity Today
"[Ethiopia] has maintained its long Christian witness in a region dominated by Islam. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church currently has a membership of around forty million and is rapidly growing,” according to a 2017 history of the Ethiopian Christian church. Western missionaries also planted Protestant churches among the Ethiopians starting as early as 1634.
Religion in Ethiopia
In Ethiopia today, more than half the population identify as Christian, including Orthodox, Protestants, Independents and Catholics. The Ethiopian churches in Greater Boston reflect this diversity, with about a half dozen each of evangelical and orthodox churches and one Catholic congregation.
Workneh Tesfaye grew up in a Coptic Orthodox family in Ethiopia. A graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, today Pastor Workneh is a Boston-based, church-planting missionary with Missions Door.
Back in 2008, a group of eight family members began to meet regularly every Sunday afternoon to pray for and raise support for orphans in Ethiopia. By 2011, as this group continued to grow, Pastor Workneh followed God’s direction to plant a new church out of this gathering—the Emmanuel Disciples Church—which continues to hold services in the EGC building in the South End.
Boston Ethiopian Christians
The Ethiopian church in Boston is colorful, diverse, and rich with history, tradition, faith and service. The 2017 revision of “The Story of the Ethiopian Christian Community in New England” explores questions such as:
- What is life like for Ethiopian Christians in Boston?
- What are the biggest challenges they face in the U.S.?
- What are the areas of opportunity for ministry in this region?