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Those I’ve Stood Alongside


Yesterday’s worship conference wasn’t just an opportunity for me to play tuba. It was also to present inspiration for becoming a more consciously polyglottal church in our gathering together. It was suggested that this makes church members from other cultural backgrounds feel more welcomed and affirmed and also potentially draws in others from the wider community.

For me, the particular thing that struck me as I participated was the reminder of those I’ve had the privilege of standing alongside over the years. We started with a song in Farsi, sung to Jesus the pādeshāh (worthy king). I got some intellectual satisfaction from spotting that ‘shah’ means king (the Shah was deposed in the late 1970’s, leading to the Islamic regime that is in power today) but what moved me was remembering the many Iranians we got to know and worship alongside in Oxford. When we had a simple song in Yoruba, one of the tribal groups from Nigeria, my heart went back to the years we spent in Lewisham and the many Yoruba speakers and other West Africans from our church who were so hospitable in their welcome and overflowing in their worship.

I don’t know if everyone will have had the privilege of such opportunities to meet with various tribes and tongues in their church experiences but even small churches in places that remain strongly monocultural have it as part of their heritage. I’m very keen to find ways to build on this in my church. We’ve got a small starting point although, as I think about it more, wider than I initially thought. Plenty to go on.

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