Hallo again to all.
The nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were the heyday of Anglican liturgical translation. In every decade, printing presses—especially in England and Australia—churned out numerous translations of the Book of Common Prayer for use by missionaries and their congregations. Some were among the first printed materials in their respective languages, and they planted the seeds of lasting Anglican faith in many parts of the world. Today, you can see many of these translations online, particularly through Charles Wohlers' magisterial Book of Common Prayer website. (Another chronologically-arranged site providing bibliographic information is here).
Over the years, we've been amazed by the global coverage of such translations, extending as it does even to an artificial language like Esperanto* and languages like Russian and Amharic in which Anglican worship was almost certainly never conducted.
We learned this week about an effort to translate parts of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church USA into Aramaic, the endangered Semitic language so important to Christians because it is the language Jesus himself spoke. This impressive work, undertaken by the young Episcopalian behind the Aramaic New Testament Project, is in part funded by a Kickstarter project—thus marrying the most ancient of languages with the most modern of fundraising methods. It strikes us as an admirable work, and we are happy that it's the BCP being chosen as one of its texts-in-progress.
This led us to reflect on what the nature of non-Anglophone Anglicanism might be like in the twenty-first century.
With the firm foundation of our tradition of prayer conducted in the language best understood by its hearers, Anglicanism can branch out into the current century with a renewed confidence and global significance. Of the ten most-spoken languages today—Chinese, English, Spanish, Hindi, Arabic, Russian, Bengali, Portuguese, German, and Indonesian**—only three—namely, English, Spanish, and Portuguese—have their most-current Anglican prayer books available in a digital format online. The most up-to-date translations into other major Anglican languages—Korean, Japanese, Cree, Hausa, Yoruba, Tamil, Tagalog—can alas only be found offline despite vast online reading populations in those languages. In still other important languages—like Quechua and Pennsylvania German, both of whose native-speaking Christian populations stand to increase dramatically this century—the riches of Anglican doctrine and liturgical tradition are still completely untranslated.
The field is ripe for the harvest, with an excellent opportunity for Anglicanism to be the best-shared secret of the online world, our lights not hidden under bushels, but set aloft for all to see and read, sing and pray. Anything other than an updated following of the spirit of the great nineteenth- and twentieth-century translators will be an intentional self-marginalisation of our spiritual tradition in a world of apps and websites.
See you next week—always in English right here, and we hope in your own church in a language 'understanded of the people'.
9 March 2014
* We've never heard of similar efforts for Klingon, Volapük, or the Elvish languages.
** Statistics from this Wikipedia entry.
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