The Church-Shopper

I’ve been remiss, I know.  No blog articles from me for a while.  I apologise.

Let’s recap a few facts about me.

  • I am a British expat, living in Germany.
  • I try to integrate: I speak German.  I have a German Schatz.  I respect the Ruhestunde.  I prefix insults with, “Es ist nicht böse gemeint, aber…”
  • I am a practising Christian (Anglican/Episcopalian).  Practising, because I can never get it right.  As part of my faith, I attend church (Anglican => Anglophone) most Sundays and go to weekly (Anglophone) bible study/house group (“Hauskreis” in German for theo).

So, what is this article about?  Well, I’m not Catholic, but I do have a bit of a bad conscience, “ein Schlechtes Gewissen”.

The house group I go to is very multinational: Americans, Africans, Brits, Germans, Malaysians, Chinese, you name it.  ABC… G, M and much more.  Please don’t get the wrong impression.  It’s not a theology seminar, with everyone sitting round piously studying Ezekiel 25:17.  We drink tea, we sing worship songs, we pray together, we laugh and joke.  All in my beloved mother tongue, English.  (Remember Samuel L Jackson when he was reciting from that passage?)

As part of the study we read a chosen text from the bible and chew it over.  Hence: bible study.   Each of us takes it in turn to read aloud a paragraph.  Roger so far?

Now, here is why my bad conscience has crept it.  One of our house group members is a nice guy, (Deckname: “Hermann”).  But…  But…  But… his command of the English language is somewhat lacking.  (That’s British understatement, by the way.)  I frankly also think he is a bit of a “church-shopper,” the kind of person that you don’t see for months because they’ve been going to…

  • A Chinese church, because they do such wonderful refreshments after the service
  • An African church, because the preacher is so entertaining
  • A local German church, because they needed an extra singer etc

You get the idea.  Harumph…

So back to house group/bible study.  “Es ist nicht böse gemeint…” but here are my points of frustration.

  1. Hermann’s tendency to church-shop.  Why does he never, ever come to our church on any Sunday?  Is house group a social activity, in the same way that some people nip to the pub, evening classes, chess club, etc?
  2. Does he have “English-groupie” tendencies?  This seems to happen among some people.  Wow!  The chance to mix with exotic foreigners and practise my English and be sophisticated.
  3. A purely practical point.  Is Hermann’s English good enough?  To give a wider context, we have a policy in our church that children at Sunday school most be sufficiently proficient in English to be able to understand the course material.  Further, they must speak only in English during the lessons.  “Es ist nicht böse gemeint…” but it’s to provide a lingua franca in the lessons.

I can’t help thinking, what would happen if we applied that English proficiency policy to our house group?  Notwithstanding Hermann’s being a nice guy, in terms of MoSCoW priorities (Must have, Should have, Could have, Won’t have yet), house group’s must-have is to study the bible.  Here I have serious concern.  When Hermann’s turn comes to read from the text, he makes me feel like I’m back at infant school again.  He speaks so slowly and haltingly in English.  (Think of when you were at infant school and your classmate would read out like a Dalek on mogadon.)

Then… the cat… and… the… dog… went… in… to… the… house…  and the… maaaaaaa-gicccccccccccccccccc-ian-… cast… a… spell… on… the… dog… and… the… cat…

(Ten minutes later your classmate has finished reading out the sentence, during which time classmates have started rocking back and forth.)

So imagine the double-whammy of a church-shopper who reads in English like a Dalek that has just swallowed a large dose of mogodan, combined with no-show for months on end because he happened to disagree with the text we were studying.

Then add the mispronunciation of Biblical names:

  • Abraham/Ahhhh-braaa-haaaam
  • Sarah/Sarrrrrraaaaa
  • Canaan/Caaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah-naaaaaaaaaaahn
  • Noah/No-aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh

This being after he had heard everyone else reading the same names out in the correct, Anglophone way…  Pay attention at the back of the class, puh-lease!

Then there is the “Umschreiben.”  This is ironically a difficult word to translate into English.  Let me explain by way of worked example.  I don’t know the word for “dog” in a given language.  I therefore say in your language, “The animal that barks and has four legs and chases cats.”  That is Umschreiben.  Hermann does a lot of that, a fact which again makes me think, “He’s not quite going to get the discussion if he hasn’t got the vocabulary.”

Am I being too harsh?  No?  Oh, thank you!  You see, I’m thinking of joining a local Albanian-language house group.  My Albanian is a bit limited, but they do do a nice cup of tea there, and I like their preacher, and…

Have an Anglophone day, won’t you!

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