Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Worship or model U.N.?

The World Communon Sunday tradition around here is to have a joint worship service with the Spanish speaking Presbyterian congregation with whom we share our building.

A number of folks--from our congregation and theirs--always choose to stay home on this day. The main complaint from the "sit this one out" folks from our church is that they don't speak Spanish and it's a pain to sit through a service where they don't understand half of what's being said. (Despite the fact that we always have translations printed in the bulletin.) The main complaint from the absentees in the other congregation is that our church is so big and their church is so small that they always feel like guests at OUR church rather than equal participants in a joint service--even if their choir sings, their pastor preaches, their elders serve communion, etc. At least 85% of the folks in the Hispanic church speak English, so comprehension is not the big issue for most of them.

My experience last year, (remember I've only been here 18 months) was that the service was well planned and executed, but it still felt more like an excersize in diplomacy than a worship service

So--here's my question. Have any of you been part of a bilingual service that "worked"? What made it tick? Could you recommend any resources?


Anitra said...

Is there any other interaction between the two congregations over the course of a year other than bumping into each other in the hallway? Otherwise, how is worshiping together one Sunday of the year because its WCS different from hiring a mariachi band or ordering take out from a Mexican restaurant? In other words, does worshiping together on WCS seriously change or challenge the power differential between the two groups (and yes, I'm assuming there is one and that could be my bad) or be anything different from say a quick day trip over the border for some shopping? "Hmm, lets go visit that culture now."

Pasadena Presbyterian Church has at two other congregations worshiping with them and Barbara Anderson, one of the co-pastors, wrote an article first published as a part of GA's Perspectives but also located in the Fall, 2005 Covenant Network newsletter (see long link below, sorry) about how they have worked throughout the year to be in intentional community so that when they worship together it works.

For what its worth.

Katherine said...

We've had all the same issues and then some trying to worship with the Korean Disciples congregation that uses half of our campus. I got tired of people not showing up and complaining about the language barrier (and with this group, only the younger kids in the Korean congregation speak English, so every last detail had to be translated). So for Pentecost and again for World Communion Sunday, we are going with the universal language of music. Each of the choirs are doing a couple songs. All hymns are sung in English and Korean simultaneously. We do readings in English and Korean, but no lengthy sermon to translate. The reviews of last time (for those who came- we still had poor attendance) were glowing. Everyone loved the emphasis on music. It made the whole thing feel much more like a celebration of unity in our diversity than an awkward attempt to keep everyone happy.

Maybe that's a cop-out, but it sure worked for us.

Rev. Dulce said...

Relationships between the two groups have to be established for true worship to happen. We are a relational people and those aren't established one day out of an entire year.

My 2 cents for what it's worth.

ellbee said...

We have a Latino church nesting in our building, and it's been an interesting journey. We've started by inviting members of their praise team to join in our services (singing a combo of English and Spanish). Then we went and sang (mostly in Spanish) with their band.

We partnered with them in our mission trips to Mexico the last 2 years, so the post-trip services included people from both congregations at each service.

We've combined a couple of "Special Services" - at Thanksgiving and Ash Wednesday that have worked well. Combining the musicians has made that work nicely (as opposed to 2 separate groups taking turns).

We still have folks who are annoyed by anything that isn't just the standard fare (regardless of whether it involves translation), but the those who attend with open minds are richly blessed.

As others have said, establishing a relationship between the congregations is the first step.

zorra said...

PCIT, could you please pass these questions on to Elizabeth and Balrog? Thanks!

For Elizabeth:
1. You are obviously a cat of high standing, with others who look up to you. What is the most important thing that Balrog can learn from you about being a successful and fulfilled cat?
2. Where do you stand on the issue of peaceful coexistence with dogs? (Full disclosure: The whole idea of peaceful coexistence with cats is a stumbling block for me. Perhaps we can find some common ground.)
3. In the interest of peace and reconciliation, what one thing do you think dogs need to understand about cats?
4. Are you a good hunter?
5. How do you show your humans that you love them?

For Balrog:

1. Do you remember much about your life before you came to your current home?
2. Where do you stand on the issue of peaceful coexistence with dogs? (This may be an opportunity to provide a good example to your elders.)
3. It seems that Elizabeth has not been all that welcoming to you. What is the main thing you want to learn from her, if she will teach you?
4. What is your favorite cat/human activity?
5. You are still a growing kitten. What do you hope to achieve over the next year?
Thanks for your answers!

In the interest of cross-cultural communication,

Diane said...

we did a bilingual worship service with the african pentecostals (who spoke english) and the hispanics who also worhsip with us. so ... spanish and english. the people who came really liked it, it "worked", but a lot of people still stayed home, especially younger families. we still had our other worship services, so this one was at 11:00.