We live in a rapidly changing world. We see it in many aspects of our lives: in our personal health, our families, the technology we use, our work, our education, etc. Change is even one of the New Jersey Synod’s core values, our guidingprinciples as a people together. And yet, it’s also difficult and a struggle, especially in our congregations. How do we deal with change together? What happens when our context changes?
Like many congregations, Zion Lutheran in Ridgefield has witnessed a dramatic change in the demographics of the the local community. The surrounding area has seen a number of Korean immigrants, which created a language barrier between this new population and the existing one. But rather than fear this obstacle, Zion decided to tackle it head on, and created an English as a Second Language (ESL) Bible study, a program that Rev. Janet Blair had seen used in a nearby congregation. This Bible study allowed for not only dwelling on the Word, but also focusing on the words. This helps those who are new to this country and culture to learn not only the English language but the language of faith.
Every Tuesday evening, Pastor Blair and two members of Zion, Michael Ahl and Angus Todd, gather with people from their community to work on pronunciation, word meanings, and the meaning of the text for their lives, which is especially helpful considering how difficult theological language can be. A recent addition has been using lessons about typical aspects of American culture like people, places and customs. It also provides a community for those who are trying to navigate the complexities of a new living situation. The time together closes with prayer with participants sharing words and sentences to the group. Pastor Blair calls this “the essence of prayer from people whose second language is English”.
This ministry has spawned a new Mission initiative in our Synod: Morning Star, an English-language ministry that serves, first, those immigrants who want to explore the faith as they practice their English conversational skills, and second, those younger persons who are familiar with English through having grown up in this culture and finding ways for them to serve in their community. In our changing world, this ministry is a witness to the way that the scripture can transcend language and culture, and bring people together for the sake of the world.
If you are interested in supporting this ministry, they are interested in developing mission partners and are also seeking financial support. To learn more, go to morningstar-ridgefield.weebly.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.