In a step described as “hugely significant” by the Rt Revd Guli Francis-Dehqani, Bishop of Loughborough, the Church of England has authorized a new Farsi translation of one of the Communion liturgies from Common Worship. It was first used at a Persian Celebration Service at Wakefield Cathedral over the past weekend.
The Anglican Communion News Service reports:
Bishop Guli arrived in the UK in 1980 at the age of 14 following the murder of her brother, Bahram, and the attempted murder of her father, the then- Bishop of Iran, Hassan Dehqani-Tafti. …
While billed as a celebration, the congregation remembered Bahram and another Anglican martyr, Arastoo Sayyah. The 40th anniversary of his murder was commemorated last month. The congregation also prayed for Christians living in Iran today.
The new translation is designed to be offered in a bilingual service, with Farsi and English side by side. The Rt Revd Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham, preached in English, and his sermon was translated into Farsi as he spoke. Again, Anglican News offers more detail:
In his sermon, which was translated into Farsi as he delivered it, he added: “Now we are all here, Farsi, English or other first language speakers because someone shared the story of God’s love in Jesus with us. Some of us have been raised and nurtured within the Christian faith. We were prayed for before our birth. We were nurtured in Christ from the day of our birth.
“Others of us, like myself, have come to faith in Christ through the loving witness of others; sometimes just one friend but very often through the loving care of a Christian community too. For some of us this journey has been relatively easy and straightforward. For others it has been costly and painful.
“This has, as we know, included martyrdom for some. The two Anglican Iranian martyrs are Revd Arastoo Sayyah and Bahram Dehqani-Tafti. The blood of the martyrs is indeed the seed of the saints. What every single one of us has discovered is the depth, breadth, height and length of God’s love in Jesus.”
Bishop Francis-Dehqani told the ACNS,
“This translated service of Holy Communion is hugely significant within the life of the Church of England as we seek to find ways of recognising the diversity which is increasingly the reality of the Church of England.”
Wakefield Cathedral, host for this inaugural service, described its relationship with the Iranian community in northern England.
The special service in Wakefield Cathedral on Saturday saw hundreds of Iranians from across the country come to hear the Persian language version of Holy Communion for the very first time.
The Bishops of Loughborough, Bradford and Durham led the new service, which included the singing of hymn verses in English and Persian alternately, and prayers in both languages.
The service is a fitting tribute to Wakefield Cathedral. It began a ministry for Iranian refugees in 2016 with twice-weekly Bible classes, a weekly Sunday service and a bi-monthly Saturday service in response to the growing number of Iranians arriving in the city wanting to find out more about the Christian journey.
Most Iranians stay in the city for between four and six weeks while their application for asylum is processed before being dispersed throughout the country – many of them finding a home in the North East.
One of the readers at Saturday’s service, Mohsen Chinaveh, was among those refugees who had found a spiritual home in Wakefield.
An Iranian Christian, Mohsen was a civil engineer and running a furniture business in Shiraz when he and his architect wife, Sara, were forced to flee Iran in 2017. They had become Christians a year earlier but their house church was discovered and they had to leave everything behind to escape persecution.
It was a journey Mohsen and his wife would rather forget – but as asylum seekers, they both ended up in a hostel in Wakefield – and discovered the cathedral and the twice weekly Bible classes.
Chinaveh now volunteers as an interpreter for other Farsi speakers discovering the Cathedral’s Bible classes, and he welcomes the new translation, telling ACNS,
“You can speak with God in your own language, that language you completely understand because you grew up with it.”