Found in Translation:
Sharing the Basis of Union in Heart Languages
Bilingual members of the Uniting Church involved in translating our foundational document, the Basis of Union, have held an online forum to share insights about their work.
It might surprise you to know that there are translations of the Basis in ten languages: Arabic, Chinese (simplified and traditional), Fijian, Indonesian, Korean, Nuer, Samoan, Spanish, Swahili and Tongan. A Niuean translation is also in the pipeline.
Assembly Theologian-in-residence Rev Dr Ji Zhang, who has overseen the recent re-translation of the Chinese language versions of the Basis, hosted the meeting.
“We want to encourage people to read one of the most important documents in the life of our Church in their heart language,” said Rev Dr Zhang.
“When I read the Basis in my own heart language for the first time, I felt it was more than just reading. It was almost like a spiritual journey, and I began to understand why I wanted to belong to the Uniting Church so many years ago.”
The work of translation is complex, and finding words that convey theological and ecclesiological concepts is often a painstaking process.
Rev Esteban Lievano said the first meeting of the UCA’s Ibero-Latino National Conference had spent more than two hours discussing how to translate the word “Uniting” before settling on “La Uniting Church.”
A trained Bible translator, Rev Lievano said: “There is a leap that we need to make. That is a unique theological leap for each culture.”
“My personal view is that we need in-house theologians to tease out these things for our unique diaspora communities to help them tease out what it means for them.”
Rev Eseta Waqabaca-Meneilly was inspired to re-translate the Basis of Union in Fijian during the COVID lockdown in Melbourne.
Differentiating between “love” and “grace” turned out the be quite difficult.
“In Fijian Bible translations love and grace use the same word in Fijian loloma.”
“In the end, I used the words ‘love freely given’ – loloma soli wale – to translate grace,” explained Eseta.
Participants also delved into the creative tensions between translation and interpretation for different audiences in all translations of the Bible. First Peoples languages, plain English versions, and youth-friendly versions were all discussed.
Rev Dr Zhang thanked participants for a rich conversation, and said another meeting of translators would be scheduled in early 2021.
Basis of Union translations are available on the Assembly’s online resource platform illuminate.
The Assembly Resourcing Unit is currently developing posters of the Basis in different languages for congregations to display in their churches.
Listen to the full conversation between translators on the video below.