An Ecclesiological Study of Congregations and Churches in Post-apartheid South Africa
Chapter Nine: Tower of Babel or Day of Pentecost?
Language is one of the principal means of communication. This is the case in the Church, too, when sermons are delivered, when liturgy is conducted, or when members build community and gather for social events.
The previous chapters have shown that linguistic diversity was particularly difficult for the congregations and churches to manage: it was both an advantage and a disadvantage when congregations and churches were building community and gathering for church services across ethnicities. This chapter is based on interviews with church councils and church leaders about linguistic diversity, and on congregational publications and statistics.
In this chapter I will examine how the congregations and churches deal with the situation of having several official languages in the democratic South Africa. I will focus on language practices that are found in the diverse congregations and churches. It is important to examine what influences the choice of language. Firstly, I will investigate how the language practices are related to the Church’s catholicity as defined in my analytical tool. Secondly, I will explore situations where one language dominates, and how these situations might be seen in relation to the catholicity of the Church.
9.1 Congregations’ Accommodation of Languages
The different congregations in the case study solved linguistic diversity in various ways, depending on their background, location, and members’ first language. Most congregations have chosen to use the language of the place where they are situated. A number of congregations use several languages...
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