Blending liturgical language for a blending culture

squarethreeI have to admit I’m often disappointed by what’s currently presented as bilingual liturgy. As I’ve experienced bilingual liturgy, liturgical texts are primarily in English with one or two songs in Spanish – a pro forma experience that refers to inclusiveness without actually enacting it. I encountered an excellent turnabout-is-fair-play experience watching streaming video from the Episcopal Church’s General Convention this summer. The musicians from San Antonio were awesome! Their songs were great! But they sang in Spanish. No translations were offered. (Although translations and invitations to participate might have happened pre-stream.) I had no way to participate. For people who are primarily hispanophone, this must be their experience of anglophone bilingual liturgy. Othering. It’s othering.

And I think it’s out of date. This generation of Latino citizens usually speak English just fine, but they’re interested in worship that affirms their language. We can provide that by blending the language of liturgy, as I’ve done in the Evening Prayer liturgy for Remembering Bartolomé Take a look. The texts are primarily in English but, by blending both languages, seek to take advantage of the vocabularies and grammar English and Spanish have in common. The texts offer a shared experience that reduces othering.

Sandra Montes, the Episcopal Church Foundation’s consultant on Spanish language resources, was the song leader for the Spanish music at General Convention. She’s writing columns for Episcopal Vital Practices in both Spanish and English, and hers is a profoundly important voice. We’ll be featuring them as they appear.

I think Latino worshipers are also looking for faith communities that affirm Latino church traditions and I’m afraid we anglophones have everything to learn about this. Have you been to a celebration of Las Posadas? What was it like?

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