A TRILINGUAL confirmation of 20 candidates was held by the Bishop of Chelmsford at a church in east London, at Pentecost, as part of a project to establish four new congregations of Portuguese- and Spanish-speakers.
At St Martin’s, Plaistow, the Revd Marco Lopes, offers eucharists in three languages — English, Spanish, and Portuguese — to serve the growing community. The congregations were not separate, he said, but “one single parish expressing itself in three different languages”.
He is leading a project, with Strategic Development Funding, to create four new Spanish and Portuguese congregations with 300 new worshippers by 2026. After just a year, the three congregations at St Martin’s now number 150.
Although the project began with separate congregations, there was already movement between them, and some Portuguese speakers were now happy to worship in English. The small congregation at the English-language service had also begun to grow, Fr Lopes said.
Portuguese himself, he said that when he moved in, in 2019, he found “a considerable number of people living in the area who were keen to have a eucharist celebrated in their own language.
“According to the previous census, there were around 6000 Spanish- and Portuguese-speakers in Newham. To that, if you add a growing community in the neighbouring borough of Barking and Dagenham, you get the potential to grow congregations in an Anglican setting.”
Most of the new congregation have a Roman Catholic background, but some had stopped going to church when they were unable to worship in their own language.
“Many would now describe themselves as Anglicans; but, even if they don’t, they are happy to come here, as we are a welcoming and inclusive church environment,” Fr Lopes said
He now plans to create two new congregations in different churches, one serving the Brazilian community, which is Portuguese speaking.
All three congregations came together for the trilingual confirmation by the Bishop of Chelmsford, Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani. Sixteen candidates were Portuguese, two were Spanish-speakers, and two were English-speakers. Lessons and hymns were in all three languages.
“When people come together, we learn there is nothing to fear from each other and we can all worship under one roof,” Fr Lopes said.