I remember listening to a Focus on the Family program a few years ago on ministry to deaf people. The program focused on how this was one of the most unreached people groups in America and had in it the story of one girl who when told that she could pray with her hands and God would hear was incredibly liberated.

In my current work environment – a mutli cultural catholic school this idea has again come to light for me. For all our protestant cries at the reformation that the service needed to be in the vernacular (the local language) so people could understand rather than Latin, I see little of this represented in most protestant church services I visit.
In the catholic masses I have been in many parts of it have had Maori elements integrated throughout. My kids at Catholic School pray in Maori, Samoan and English – the message they are getting is that God understands all of these languages. I am currently working on teaching my middles (8-10 year olds) a benediction in Maori from Luke and am trying to improve my Samoan Pronunciation so we can learn a Samoan worship song.

Of course this is a complex issue some newly arrived immigrant groups like to set up their own separate church service where the service is preached and practiced entirely in the native tongue. In other congregations their might not be someone fluent enough to translate into English as the native tongue is the only one that the people are fluent in and I see a different blog post on this ! But here lies my question does everything always have to be in English?

My pet peeve though, on reflection from seeing this now from how God is viewed from the Catholic perspective in the NZ church and many evangelical churches is : why do we (protestants- and I am going more towards evangelicals here) tend to throw in other languages as token : ‘lets have a token maori prayer to welcome the new pastor’ and then for the other 11 months of the year not mention our bicultural heritage or grapple with it from the pulpit or in small groups?

  • What sort of message does this communicate to the wider community and to those people of those cultures?
  • What about the songs we sing – does this not limit the way we can worship God in – especially when the songs come from cultures different to our own?
  • Does the fact that we are so restricted to an evangelical style of worship force different cultural groups to go and create their own churches?

Any ideas? Thoughts?