Thanks to a $6,000 grant, Central United Methodist Church soon will offer its Sunday sermons in three languages.
The church is in an area in East Charlotte where refugees from all over the world are settling, said Pastor Susan Suárez Webster, the church’s assistant pastor for community outreach.
Because many members of the church don’t speak a common language, church members have used “people skills,” such as offering a handshake and a friendly smile, to make them feel welcome. About 25 church members, most older than 55, have taken a beginning Spanish class to better communicate with their Hispanic neighbors.
A core group of families who speak Spanish or Zo, a language of Myanmar, have begun faithfully attending the church.
“We offer everything in English,” Webster said. “They are following our order of service and participating based on their own very strong Christian faith from their own country.”
However, most of them do not speak English and do not understand the content of the service. Not wanting to split the congregation into smaller, language-specific groups, Webster looked for a way to integrate them all into the church’s Sunday worship.
The grant from the Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church will pay for equipment from ProLingo, which will allow bi-lingual speakers to translate Sunday sermons live into Spanish and Zo. Each translator will stand near the front of the church and speak a translation of the sermon into a small microphone while the pastor preaches.
The translation will be transmitted into listening devices that congregants will wear.
“(This) will allow them to hear the pastor’s message in their own language,” Webster said.
The transmission devices should be in place in May, and Webster has lined up translators and has spread the word among the church’s Latino and Zo congregants.
“There’s quite a bit of excitement,” she said.
The Rev. Michelle Chappell also plans to begin using more visual illustrations in her sermons to convey ideas.
“Visual aids also can relay the message of God,” Webster said.
The translation services are part of Central UMC’s priority of promoting unity in its congregation and its understanding that the children of immigrants will be attending public schools and learning English.
“We want all generations to feel comfortable in our faith community,” Webster said. The church also hopes that people of many backgrounds will continue to be part of its congregation and Sunday services.
“We have to be together and live in harmony.”
Central United Methodist Church is at 6030 Albemarle Road and meets at 11 a.m. on Sundays. For more information, visit www.cumccharlotte.com.
Marty Minchin is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Marty? Email her at email@example.com.
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