- Created on Monday, 16 April 2012 10:44
- Written by Paul Smethurst
Two thoughts from an Englishman serving the Lord in Wales, with a heart for the Welsh language community and learning Welsh, and pastoring two churches in South Llanelli, one traditionally English language and one traditionally Welsh language.
First, I want to emphasise the potential of the Welsh language for Mission in Wales today. For too long in the English speaking Churches we have spoken of the 'problem' of the Welsh language in Mission. The bigger obstacle in my view is our unwillingness to use the Welsh language. My experience has been that a willingness to learn and use even a limited amount of Welsh when sharing with first language Welsh speakers with an incarnational motive opens hearts to Christ and His message.
Secondly, standing where I am, it seems to me that the way that the Welsh language is being used is changing and, if I am right, this needs some serious and fresh missional thinking. Previously contextual mission in Wales demanded ministering in either English or Welsh. I observe two trends regarding Welsh speakers; the significant increase of children being educated through the medium of Welsh from homes where there are no Welsh speakers and the (often linked) increase in number of Welsh adult learners. Is this a new and increasing 'people group' in the nation; people who treasure the language and have committed highly to it but for whom Welsh is a second language and thus not their heart language. For this reason it is my conviction that not only do we need to consider what bilingual Church could/should look like and how we can facilitate it but to see the potential of bilinigualism for mission into this emerging people group. The largest Welsh Language service that we have held in our traditionally speaking Welsh Chapel in the last year was our Gwasanaeth y Pasg ar gyfer Dysgwyr y Gymraeg (Easter Service for Welsh Learners). The majority of the people attending this service come to our weekly Grwp Sgwrs Cymraeg (Welsh Conversation Group)!!! Depending on our local context the need linguistically for either/or is certainly not dead... but for the many of us who believe that effective and sustainable mission must be incarnational surely it is therefore time to seek God and talk together about how to use both?