St Silas Church, Glasgow
About 20,000 international students are coming to Glasgow every year. About a quarter are from countries, where the gospel is hardly known and where Christian persecution is high. Many come to Glasgow, having never met a Christian or been to a church service before.
Therefore, we decided to have an international student friendly service!
We wanted to show that Christianity is not something British, but that we’re part of a global body of believers, and that God understands and values every culture and language. We got internationals from the congregation involved and tried to make the service more accessible for speakers of other languages.
“This is the story in my own language!” One Chinese student was surprised when we handed him a service sheet that had the bible passage printed in 8 languages. He had come after seeing a flyer in an online group. This was his first time ever in a church service.
Instead of using “Christianese” when guiding us through the service, our youth worker Robbie made a conscious effort to use words that were understood by everyone. Our rector Martin had prepared a sermon outline, which was handed out to international visitors with the bible passage in various languages, giving background information for those opening a bible for the first time. Everyone speaking from the front also tried to speak clearly and slowly (which is not always easy for us Glasgow folk!).
A highlight for many was when a member from our church family taught us a song from his home church in Uganda. He got us to lift our hands with the rhythm, clap along, and you might have even spotted the odd person dancing along here and there!
Because we wanted to show that God was Lord of all languages, we had the Lord’s prayer read out in three different languages by members from the congregation. “It was a special moment to be able to share the Lord’s prayer in my own language with the church family!”, said one of our Christian international students. With the bible passage read out in first English and then Spanish, and a prayer during intercessions in German, we had plenty of international flair all throughout the service. “Hearing someone pray in a different language – even when I didn’t understand it – made me think of that one day, when people of all nations will be praying in front of God’s throne”, shared one of our Scottish members with me.
Our international guests seemed to like it too. “Everyone here is so welcoming and friendly”, said a Chinese student when we had tea together after the service. Another Chinese girl said “I didn’t know you can join a church meeting just like this. I thought you have to get a membership like in a gym!” She’s a keen seeker and planned to come back the following Sunday, to hear more about God.
Please pray for St Silas as the church family reaches out to internationals spending the holidays alone in Glasgow. For details please see the St Silas website: https://www.stsilas.org.uk/whats-on/internationals
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