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Church News

'Church Gaelic' encouraged by Church of Scotland

by Cara Bentley

The Church of Scotland is encouraging people to learn or reconnect with the Gaelic language by learning new words and watching services online. 

It has produced a glossary of terms to help people learn 'Church Gaelic', teaching ecclesiastical vocabulary and phrases so everyone can follow a service in the regional language. 

Gaelic is a language spoken by about 1 per cent of the Scottish population, or over 55,000 people, mostly in the Outer Hebrides. 

Last month the University of the Highlands and Islands warned that the language would decline unless it is used more in everyday conversation and at home.

The Church of Scotland has therefore produced a glossary of church words, the names of celebrations in the Christian calendar and sentences said in services to help those who feel they have lost the language reconnect and encourage more people to pick it up. 

For example, 'Dèanamaid ùrnaigh' means 'Let us pray' and 'Leughamaid ann an Leabhar...' means 'Let us read in the Book of...'

It's written by the Kirk's Gaelic language development officer Dr Duncan Sneddon and supported by academics and Gaelic speakers.

Dr Sneddon said: "There are a lot of people who speak Gaelic quite well or even fluently, but aren't confident in their grasp of 'church Gaelic'.

"'Church Gaelic' or 'Bible Gaelic' is increasingly distant from the everyday spoken language, for younger people in particular. This handbook should help people gain confidence in using their Gaelic in worship and Bible reading.

"I'm also happy to take suggestions for future editions, so if there's something you think would be useful that isn't in there, let me know."

The Church is also promoting having enough fluency to preach in Gaelic and share their faith, saying : "It is aimed primarily at those who wish to be able to preach or otherwise lead worship in Gaelic, but feel that their grasp of Biblical and ecclesiastical Gaelic prevents them from doing so."

The booklet has advice on different Gaelic translations of the Bible and notes on potentially difficult grammar used within the Gaelic Bible.

During lockdown some churches, such as Fort William Duncansburgh MacIntosh Parish Church, have moved online for Gaelic Bible study and services, which has led to people taking part from countries as far away as Argentina. The Gaelic Bible study group has now split into a beginner and more advanced level, and is now attended by several ministers and readers from the Church of Scotland, and even two ministers from the United Church of Canada, where a few speak 'Canadian Gaelic'. 

Some Scottish churches have also run Sunday schools and full services in Gaelic.


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