Towards a multilingual church
Dr Claire Moll Namas, one of our chaplaincy team, reflects on the development of worship in other languages at St Katharine Cree...
St. Katharine Cree has begun celebrating a Spanish language mass occurring on the first Saturday of each month. From 12noon to 1pm the church echoes with the joyous sounds of the song "Pescador de Hombre". However, this initiative was not led by the clergy or staff. In the winter people from across our life at the church, from our ESOL students, to members of the union, to participants in our women's leadership course, all who had first arrived to the building of St. Katharine Cree ostensibly to benefit from our more secular programming, began to ask if we celebrated mass in Spanish on a Sunday. We explained that we didn't, but if mass is something that they might be interested in, we could explore options. Taking a lead from the community, we began a listening campaign focused on exploring the spiritual needs of those coming into the building for any sort of activity. Overwhelmingly the feedback was that people wanted a Bible Study and a mass in their first language.
The Bible Study took place over lent after our morning ESOL class and had a very dedicated group of women. They discussed forgiveness--what the Bible has to say about it, how God and Jesus exemplify it, and how we might implement that sort of forgiveness in our everyday lives.
As for the mass, it quickly garnered 20-30 regular participants. People from across Latin America, all migrant workers in London, gather to receive communion or an anointing of the sick. Many of the congregants are returning to the communal practice of their faith for the first time in years. We know that shift work, often managing multiple jobs, plus the cotidian struggles of family life mean that many low-wage workers have to forgo weekly gatherings like this. Keeping unsociable hours often means a forced separation from partaking in the sacred meal of the body and blood of Jesus Christ. But now, at least once a month, those coming for ESOL or the union meetings can once again access this intimate communal moment.
One woman remarked after the first Spanish language mass, "I finally knew the words to the mass again!" There is very much a spirit of returning to faith happening at St. Katharine Cree in this moment of time. It is a joy for the team to be accompanying so many in this re-encounter. We all have a language of our hearts, and it is in that language that we long to connect with God.
At St. Katharine Cree, we are looking towards the future, and as we partner with more people who have first languages other than Spanish, we hope to build up worshiping communities in those languages as well. Stay tuned for the mass in Albanian or the Ukrainian language Bible Study! As we continue to work to build the Kingdom of Heaven here on Earth, we expect our building to become filled with many types of songs of praise--all united in the mission to worship God, welcome our neighbours, and challenge injustice as the Guild Church for Workers.