Finding my voice in a new tongue: navigating faith and language in a Welsh church.

26th Jun 2024

By Rachel Hughes

During lockdown I took the decision, along with Andy to leave the English language church we had been attending as a family and begin joining Andy at the Welsh language church plant that my family had been attending (prior to Covid) in the evenings for a good while without me.

Although we have lived in Wales for a long time now, and I have been to Welsh classes I am not a natural linguist. To cut a long story short, I don’t know what took me so long in making this move because it definitely feels like my spiritual home and the people there are family.

We have a good number of mixed language families at our church Emaus and each Sunday translation equipment is provided so that English speakers can understand the sermon etc. However, one of the difficulties of being part of a church where your own language, the one you think and pray in is not the dominant language, is the potential for you to lose your voice. Opportunities to contribute have been few and this is partly down to the discomfort I feel when I draw people back to speaking English.

I can read Welsh, but my brain doesn’t have the capacity to read and translate at the same time. I often join the worship group in singing but as soon as we begin to sing, I completely lose the ability to think in English. It doesn’t matter, because the spirit of God brings about its own blessing and, in that moment, you just have to stop struggling and let go.

You may be able to imagine the situation if you just take yourself through a regular church service, from the moment you step in and share coffee to being given opportunities to pray.

It’s tricky but we are learning as a church that a lot of the issues are in our heads, and we need to seek Gods guidance and work through every step with Him.

Welsh is not just a language; it is very much the heartbeat of our local area. It’s beautiful and when Gods’ people worship in Welsh, there is nothing like it.

So here is my new space for 2024, I have been asked to take on Prayer coordinating in our church. I’ve thought long and hard about committing because so many issues have popped into my head.

But I’ve said yes, and I am both excited and anxious about what lies ahead. Anxious, because it will mean exploring some things that we tend not to talk about, but the words God has left with me as I begin this journey are ‘start the conversation’.

We have to address the tricky things, we need seek His wisdom so that we don’t cause offense to those of either language but most of all, this is a God given opportunity for our church family to model something new and for us all to find our voices. Whatever language we think in, whatever our heart language God longs to hear us pray.

I’d be grateful for your prayers as I move forward in this role.