Saturday, April 05, 2008

Bi-lingualism and St John's

I had the pleasurable challenge of a properly bi-lingual wedding today. It's something that was habitual when I worked in Switzerland and France - usually either with French or German as the other language, sometimes with another cleric accompanying, often not. St John's has been mostly an English language church in the past, with Welsh language services catered for by Eglwys Dewi Sant, just across the other side of the city centre, in a building which was one of six built during the incumbency of the mighty Canon Thompson during the last quarter century of Victoria's reign. This has begun to change, however, perhaps due to the influx of more native Welsh speakers into the city.

It's not unusual for wedding couples, or even grieving families to ask for Welsh language hymns, but over the past couple of years, the request to some Welsh in the service has started to grow. Both families, one from Anglesey and one from Llanelli supporting bride and groom at today's wedding were Welsh speaking, so I did the greater part of the service in Welsh. I invited all to say the Lord's Prayer in their mother tongue (in English, as there were some English-only speakers present), but the predominant language voiced was indeed Welsh - a special moment.

Moreover, it suggests that we need to think a little more creatively about liturgical bi-lingualism as a pastoral policy that needs to find appropriate expression in our church's life - starting with new signage. We are obliged to do something about this, not least because one of our sign boards has blown down. The wind of the Spirit seems to be prodding us as well as urban demographics.

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