Pentecost is fast approaching and will be looking for ways to proclaim the miraculous event that gave birth to the church. But, as Bishop Kenneth Carter like to point out, we tend to think of this as a case of miraculous speech when it’s really a case of miraculous hearing. No matter where the assembled people were from, they were able to hear in their own language.
Many of the churches of our conference are tapping into this spirit of miraculous hearing and understanding by finding ways to include people in worship whose native language isn’t English.
For many years, Harrison UMC has been a conference leader in reaching diverse peoples. They’ve hosted worship services in Korean, Spanish and Portuguese. But beginning this June they have a vision of making worship multilingual. Associate Pastor Tim Webster applied for and received a grant from the WNCC Justice and Reconciliation Team for transmitters and receivers that will allow for folks to receive translation in real time. Tim is excited about the opportunities this will provide to bring differing people together in one worship service.
Christ UMC in Greensboro also received a grant for the technology that will help them reach new people. Around 20 members of the Koho people and language group have been joining them for their 9:00 AM worship service, although most don’t speak English. The Koho are among the Montagnard people who have settled in the Triad in such great numbers. A young man from that group named Angelo will translate Associate Pastor Louis Timberlake’s sermons. There may also be opportunities for Angelo to explore his own sense of calling and lead all the assembled congregants in worship.
Years ago, the Cambodian Mission in Charlotte voted to merge with St. John’s UMC. Since then, St. John’s has merged with Providence UMC. But every Sunday at St. John’s the worshippers hear both Khmer (spoken by the Cambodians) and English. The Call to Worship and Offertory at St. John’s are always offered in Khmer.
In these ways and many others, the churches of our conference are keeping the spirit of Pentecost alive. Thanks be to God!