My friend Becky belongs to a charismatic church. I knew it meant a lively type of church, with a strong emphasis on participation by the congregation, but why this choice of word? I assumed it was because they tend to be fronted by someone with a very strong personality and a talent to touch people. However, this is not quite right. Charisma comes from Greek Kharisma, favour given. According to the OED, it is "a free gift of favour specially vouchsafed by God; a grace, a talent". Hence charismatic designates "a movement within certain western churches to restore the charismata or spiritual gifts (esp. speaking in tongue and prophecy) to a central place in the life and worship of the church".

This is Becky’s explanation of how the charismatic movement developed:

The charismatic movement grew up in the 60’s and 70’s drawing reference to the Black Pentecostal movement. People who were perhaps frustrated by some of the stayed or very traditional aspects of the established church wanted a greater freedom of expression. Looking at the timing of this I guess it reflects a shift in culture generally, i.e. the whole free love hippy thing. The result was that people left those more traditional church set ups and did their own thing.

In the case of my particular church and the one I also grew up in, back in London this took the form of house church. That is small groups of people gathering together in each others homes to worship and pray together, much like the first church as it is depicted in the book of Acts in the bible. In time these small groups got bigger and moved out of people’s homes into buildings, often school halls or community centres, and as they grew more they spread and developed networks.

What marked out these groupings was a freer style of worship and use of the gifts of the spirit (See 1 Corinthians chapter 12 v.4-11) examples are prophesy, healing, speaking in tongues and the interpretation of tongues. These gifts are the charisms of the spirit or the charismata, thereby giving rise to the name the charismatic movement. It is fair to add that the charismatic movement is not just an entity in itself but that most Christian denominations now have aspects of the charismatic within them- so you can have charismatic Anglicans, Catholics, Baptists etc. In those cases whilst remaining within a particular church tradition or denomination, employing a particular theology, and style of worship people would still use or manifest the gifts of the spirit.