Research by the Methodist Church in Britain has found that at least 89 of their local churches hold regular worship in languages other than English and Welsh.
For the first time, the Church’s Statistics for Mission Report features data on language, ethnicity and the number of churchgoers engaged in children and youth ministry.
The Methodists say that the information shows their denomination as “diverse and modern” with a “wide breadth of worshipping communities”.
Among the languages reported to be used in services or in fellowship groups are Afrikaans, Akan, Cantonese, Portugese, Lingala, Eritrean, Farsi, Fijian, French, Gah, Ghanaian, Hindi, Korean, Ibo, Indian, Kerala, Krio, Malayalam, Mandarin, Mende, Philippino, Punjabi, Shona, Yuruba, Swaheli, Tamil, Twi, Fanti, Urdu, Vietnamese and Zimbabwean languages.
John Chambers, a minister at Walworth Methodist Church in London, said: “We have four fellowships in our church: Sierra Leone, Ghanaian, Zimbabwean and Nigerian. During the year, each fellowship will hold a service; parts of which will be given in a language that many people in the Church will understand.”
He insisted, “Holding fellowships in this way has helped our church to grow. We have 500 members. People will come to our church knowing that their ethnic tradition will be acknowledged.”
The report also provided more detail on local forms of “Fresh Expressions” of church than has ever been collected before. It identifies 893 Methodist fresh expressions. Cafe Church, Messy Church, Third Place and cell group are listed as the most popular.
A count charting Methodist participation in local ecumenical partnerships demonstrated the high proportions involved. Seven per cent of all Methodists - 16,500 people - belong to an ecumenical congregation.
“We are collecting these statistics each year to get an accurate picture of who and what we are as a Church in the 21st century,” said Methodist Research Officer Christopher Stephens, “The report will enable us to support local churches in their mission needs and help congregations do the same.”
He admitted that, “This report will surprise some readers, including Methodists. It demonstrates clear areas of growth and a rich diversity that may reflect a Methodist Church that is different from the general preconception.”
Other statistics showed that the Methodist Church carried out 14 of out every 1,000 marriages and 35 out of every 1,000 funerals conducted in Britain last year.