Last week’s sacrament meeting was unique. While on the surface it was just the annual Primary Sacrament Meeting program, the room was packed and the overflow took up most of the cultural hall. But the best part was the congregational hymns, a joyful cacophany that mangled the hymns, making them hard to understand, but communicating clearly the spirit.
Here in New York City our stake has two Spanish-speaking wards, including one that shares the building with us. Last year our two wards began sharing primary and youth programs. Our Sunday schedules overlap so that those classes can meet together.
On the whole, as far as I can tell from being outside the primary and youth programs (I do have children in the programs), the idea seems to work, although I suppose for someone unfamiliar with our situation, and without much information about what immigrant communities are like.
You might think that the best thing for any ward is to let it stand on its own, staffing its own programs and training its own people. For our sister Spanish-speaking ward, that has been tried. The reason I think that this works is a simple observation about the immigrant community: Their children either don’t speak or don’t want to speak Spanish.
Like most immigrant groups that have entered the U.S. over the years, the children (depending on age) usually learn English quickly (if imperfectly) and often avoid speaking their parent’s language in an effort to be “real” Americans and to fit in with U.S. culture.
In the case of our sister ward, the ward, and many families in it, were split along linguistic lines, with parents preferring to speak Spanish because of their heritage, or because they aren’t comfortable in English, and the children refusing to speak Spanish to be more American or because they aren’t as comfortable in Spanish.
For a ward, the situation can cause difficult staffing problems. Its hard to staff a primary or youth program when the children need teachers who speak English, and the reason their parents are in the ward is that they don’t speak English. Most Spanish-speakers fluent enough in English want to attend English-speaking wards (at least in our stake), leaving no one to teach the English-speaking children in the Spanish-language wards.
Its a difficult problem, and I’ll bet that other Spanish-language wards face it also. I’d love to hear about what other wards and stakes face because of these problems.
But regardless of what others are doing, I think this solution works fairly well, at least for the situation we face here.