In today’s congregations, diversity has become—or should become—a staple. The number of immigrants in our nations continues to rise. And we need to minister to them and invite them into God’s church. But we cannot honestly invite others into the church if we are not willing to provide services in their languages. Also, in immigrant churches, different languages are spoken within a single congregation by different generations; bilingual worship is necessary if these churches wish to worship together as a family.
The bilingual style of worship is not new; it has been present since the early church. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew, while the New Testament was written in Greek. Different languages were also employed in the liturgies of the early church, such as Maranatha, which is Aramaic for “Our Lord, Come!” and Halleluia, Hosanna, and Amen, which is Jewish synagogue language.
The Directory for Worship of the Presbyterian Church (USA) encourages worship leaders to remember this diversity:
The church shall strive in its worship to use language about God which is intentionally as diverse and varied as the Bible and our theological traditions. The church is committed to using language in such a way that all members of the community of faith may recognize themselves to be included, addressed, and equally cherished before God.” (W.1.2006b)
If you would like to read more about bilingual worship services, see Dr. Paul Huh’s recent article, “Creating Bilingual Worship Services in Korean and English”, Call to Worship, Vol. 37.4/2003-2004.
Issues in Bilingual Worship
A Word of Advice…
Personalize the Worship
David Hoonjin Chai finished his 16 years of service with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) as a national staff for Asian American Leadership of the General Assembly Mission Council in 2010. For the last two decades he has been actively engaged in teaching and preaching nationwide on the topics of leadership, Christian Education, and Church Renewal.
He currently serves as Founder/Chair of the Confluence Institute, a ministry of Church leadership development.
In 2013, Rev. Dr. Chai was chosen as the first Korean-American “Educator of the Year 2013” by the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators (APCE). Currently he is working with the Korean Central Presbyterian Church as stated supply pastor. He can be reached at hoonjinchai@