I was listening to the radio the other day (as you do when stuck in Auckland traffic) and there was an interesting interview on with a guy who deals with problem gambling amongst Asian immigrants. He made the point that the casinos function as centres of social activity for immigrants because they can belong to and participate fully in a community without the need for comprehensive English language skills. You can meet others, play the tables, order food and drink with less stress than other social venues.
Made me think about the church. How much of a “language-barrier” is there to people coming into our communities and what sort of participatory (that was the key term the interviewee used) stuff do we have or do that bridges that gap? In a place like West Auckland where your church community (if it’s like mine) is a mix of Asian, European, Maori, Pasifika and other immigrants from places like South Africa just a basic awareness of how we use language is critical. What assumptions do we make about what level of competence people have with different languages (esp. English)? And how does that affect the inclusivity of our communities of faith?
Is the content of teaching only delivered in oral English? Do we embrace the diversity within the community in our expression of worship? Do we ask for and listen to the voices of those who have chosen to live here and join our community of faith?
Maybe we should take a gamble.