Tuesday, January 29, 2013
The Language Barrier
It seems that the transition from German to English has led us down a garden path of unintended consequences. For one, we found out that the German was not all that different from the English language liturgies of non-Lutherans and that was a bit disappointing. It sounded all that loftier in German than it sounds in English. For another, the liturgy has become a soup of choices in which we borrow from all sorts of traditions and denominations and what happens on Sunday morning is not as consistent as it was prior to English.
Funny thing that our experience is not unique. My family friends, the Irish Kirby family, was severely disappointed when they went to their first English Mass. Suddenly the noble words of Latin gave way to the shocking awareness that they were saying and singing the same things Lutherans had been for more than 400 years. It seems that the transition to English has not been without its losses in the pews (although the blame cannot only be assigned to the vernacular).
Now it seems the Orthodox are wondering if the non-English language of the Divine Liturgy is a burden to attracting and keeping converts. Hmmmm.... haven't we been down this road before? This is one Orthodox voice on the issue:
One of the major obstacles to the twenty first century becoming the Orthodox century is the language barrier. In many American Orthodox parishes the Sunday Liturgy is either in a foreign language or a mixture of English and non-English. Orthodox parishes with an all-English Liturgy tend to be in the minority. This blog posting addresses why we need all-English worship services, what can be done about the present problem of people exiting through the backdoor, and how we can help make the twenty first century the Orthodox century.
You can read more here....
The back door is a problem for Rome, for Wittenberg, and for Constantinople. The language of the liturgy may have some impact on the problem -- more for some folks and less, much less, for others. But the problem is not about to go away with a language change -- Rome to Latin or Orthodoxy to English.