Church of England launches Holy Communion in Persian/Farsi language

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Bishop Guli Dehghani

Bishop Guli has led a special service at which the Church of England launched a Persian language translation of Holy Communion to help growing numbers of Iranians in our congregations who are learning English.

(Photo courtesy of Tony Johnson, Yorkshire Post: L-R Bishop Toby, Iranian Christians Mohsen and Sara Chinaveh with their baby Jesus, Bishop Guli and Bishop Paul at Wakefield Cathedral).

Authorised by the House of Bishops, the publication of the Farsi language service affirms the presence of Iranians in churches as a gift, and demonstrates commitment to welcoming them into the life of the Church of England.

The new liturgy is designed to be used alongside English language liturgy, with both languages printed side by side, enabling people to follow and participate in services.

At a special celebration service in Wakefield Cathedral (Saturday 2 March 2019) the Bishops of Loughborough, Bradford and Durham used the service wording for the first time. More than 450 members of congregations from churches across England, including British, Iranian and other nationality Christians, attended the service which included the singing of hymn verses in English and Farsi alternately and prayers in both languages.

The Bishop of Loughborough, the Rt Revd Guli Francis-Dehqani, who came to the UK from Iran with her family when she was just 14-years-old, following the events of the 1979 revolution) presided at the service and conveyed messages from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York. You can read more details below, including the story of her cope and mitre with Persian designs, which she wore at the service.

Her father was the late Bishop Hassan Dehqani-Tafti, the first Persian Bishop in Iran, who was forced into exile after an attempt on his life and the murder of his only son. Bishop Guli’s role within the Diocese of Leicester has a particular focus on encouraging and enabling the participation and ministry of BAME heritage people in churches.

Together with the Bishop of Bradford and Bishop of Durham, she holds a brief for supporting work with Persian Christians around the country. The Bishop of Bradford, the Rt Revd Toby Howarth helped her lead the service and the sermon was given by the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler.

You can hear Bishop Toby and Guli talk about the liturgy launch on an item broadcast by BBC Radio 4’s Sunday programme  by clicking here and listening at 21 minutes in to the show.

Before the service, Bishop Guli told reporters more than 75 clergy in England had asked for translation help as there were so many Iranians coming to their congregations.

“This translated service is hugely significant in the life of the Church of England as we seek to find ways to recognise the diversity that is the reality of the Church of England, where we find minority communities as part of our congregations,” she said.

“This enables English speaking and Farsi speaking people to worship alongside each other in an integrated way and is really significant. I hope it will be the first of others to come.  There seems to be something happening. Iranians are quite spiritual in nature and if they come to our churches we want them to feel welcomed. This is a really joyful thing for us to celebrate. It is very exciting.”

Bishop Toby also spoke of the Iranians coming to our churches as something God is doing across our churches and across the world: “We are trying to find a way of worshipping together. It has been such a blessing to the Church,” said Bishop Toby. We are not just the Church of England, we are the church of God and we want people to be able to worship in their own language alongside each. What we’re trying to do today is trying to find a way of worshipping together.”

The liturgy is available online from the Church of England at https://www.churchofengland.org/prayer-and-worship/worship-texts-and-resources/additional-resources-worship

You can read more about the service, including details of Bishop Guli’s Persian design cope and mitre, the Bishop of Durham’s full sermon, as well as the messages from both Archbishops which were shared at the service, below.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Most Revd Justin Welby:

Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ! Although I cannot be with you today, I have had the privilege of meeting Iranian followers of Christ in London, and was moved by their powerful testimonies. I therefore rejoice greatly that the liturgy for Holy Communion has been translated, enabling people to better understand and participate in services. The book of Revelation paints a picture of a great multitude from every nation, tribe, people and language standing before the throne praising God. Today is a tiny foretaste of that glorious vision, and I pray that as you worship together you will catch a glimpse of the worldwide family of faith that we are part of by God’s grace. May the Lord bless you and keep you as you worship and witness to our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu

Brothers and sisters in Christ, greetings to you in his name on this wonderful occasion. I am sorry to be unable to be with you, and I trust that the service will be a great celebration of the goodness of God, who makes us one in Christ, breaking down every barrier between us. I rejoice at the publication of this Farsi translation of the Holy Communion Service – though we are many, we are one body!

Persian design cope and mitre

At the service, Bishop Guli wore her own cope and mitre which feature Persian designs. Describing them, she said: “Since becoming Bishop of Loughborough one of the things I’ve had to get used to is wearing a cope and mitre. As these were being made especially for me I was keen that they should locate my ministry here in England within the wider story of my life. I come from Iran and my early faith was nurtured in the tiny Anglican Church there. It seemed natural that the design and colour and symbols used on the cope and mitre should combine Persian elements generally with Persian Christian elements specifically.

“A very dear friend of mine, who I grew up with in Iran, now also lives in England and her husband is a gifted graphic designer who generously offered to take on the challenge of designing the material. The finished product uses patterns inspired by Persian tile work typical of many architectural designs in Iran, including some of the world famous mosques.

“Turquoise is a precious stone mined in Iran and has been associated with the country for centuries. It provides a beautiful and bold background colour for the design. In the centre of the mitre sits the Persian Cross, similar though not identical to the Canterbury Cross. And down the front panels, known as orpheries, are written words in Persian script describing the attributes of God: Founder, advocate, intermediary, servant, weight bearer, lover, sacrifice, guide. These same words are also to be found in a piece of decorative tiling in St. Luke’s Church, Isfahan where I grew up. God’s call on my life has lead me each step of the way since my childhood in Iran and through the many twists and turns that have brought me to the Diocese of Leicester. I am profoundly thankful for all that has shaped me and for the opportunity now to serve here in England as Bishop of Loughborough.”