When you go to church, do you understand what is happening around you? Do you read the words of the songs and sing them with comprehension of what they mean? How does the meaning of the words soften your heart, illuminate your mind, and excite your emotions?
For a lot of immigrants in our congregation, they are not comprehending most of what is being said or sung in the worship. Our desire for them as they assimilate into American society is that they learn English in order to maintain employment and to engage with the broader community. However, as quickly as one group of immigrants is getting assimilated there’s another group walking in the door who is not. At the same time, there are segments of the new immigrant community that may not ever be forced to master English. Specifically, the elderly and stay-at-home moms who do not have to master English in order to enter the workforce.
I was in high school when I went on a short-term mission trip to Miami, FL. There is a PCA church there that we led a VBS program for which is made up of Haitian immigrants. The service that we attended was entirely in the Haitian Creole language. It was a cool experience, but I didn’t understand one bit of it. It was fun to try out or one Sunday, but can you imagine that experience every Sunday? If the church is going to be a reconciled community with immigrants, we need to address the issues of worshiping in our heart language.
“Heart Language” is the language that you have grown up speaking. It’s the one you mostly intimately understand. American’s don’t really get this concept because most of us don’t know what it’s like to be multi-lingual. At NCF, we offer a sermon that is preached in French and now Spanish (a new addition last month) in addition to our regular English sermon. In the next few months, we are going to begin experimenting with ways to incorporate these heart languages more comprehensively into our worship services by offering translation of English songs, scriptures, and maybe even eventually announcements.