At the end of September I attended the the EMYC (European Methodist Youth Council) in Varna, Bulgaria. The official languages of the council are English and German and as I don’t speak German, I’ve been using a translation headset.
If you’ve had experience of these headsets you’ll how important it is that the translator speaks clearly and has a good knowledge of both the original language and the one they’re translating into.
But even then, sometimes you get a funny feeling that something has been lost in the translation.
Everyone laughs but you’re not sure why it’s funny.
The speaker goes on for 5 minutes but your translation is only 2 words.
Or it just doesn’t seem to make any sense.
Anyway, it got me thinking.
Does the language we use in Church sometimes alienate people from outside?
Maybe it’s hymns that use outdated language. Words like “Liturgical”, “Ecumenical” or “Intercession” that we take for granted, but those who have no experience of church (especially young people) wouldn’t know what they mean because they just don’t come across these words in everyday life.
I’m not saying these words are bad or that we shouldn’t use them, but it’s easy to forget not everyone speaks our “language”. And it’s not always the words we use. Have you ever asked a group to close by saying “The Grace” assuming that everyone knows it by heart?
Have you been in a meeting where everyone else starts reciting a prayer and you try moving your mouth to look like you’re joining in even though you have no idea what’s going on?
You can probably think of other examples from your own church. Or maybe you can’t.
Perhaps you don’t understand what the big deal is and you think if people just stick around for a while, they’ll get used to it. And besides, you’ve always done it this way…
A few years ago I was fortunate to take part in a youth exchange between England, France and Zambia.
On one of the preparation weekends, the English group decided to write a contemporary version of the Lord’s Prayer to make it more accessible;
Parent of the world, watching over us,
You are good and holy,
Teach us to build your home on earth,
Provide for us the things we need,
Show us forgiveness and teach us to do the same,
Don’t let us stray from your path,
Untangle us from evil,
You created life and everything is yours to own for eternity,
You might like this version. Or not. Maybe you think it loses something sacred from the original. Either way, I hope it gives you something to think about.
How important is the language we use in worship? In church meetings?
Are there times when the words you use act as a stumbling block that stops others from meeting with God?
Youth and Young Adult Committee Chair