Newsong Church, based in Santa Ana, CA, is a multi-ethnic, multi-generational church with one simple goal: “Love God. Love people.” Santa Ana is a diverse city with large Latino and Asian communities, and plenty of Spanish and Vietnamese speakers. In 2016, the New Song team took it on themselves to reach out to the sizable community of non native English speakers. They decided that the use of simultaneous translation would be the best way to achieve this. In August 2016, as the team was looking into the best options available to them, they discovered Interactio.
Due to the large Hispanic and Vietnamese population in the Santa Ana area, the Newsong team realized that it made no sense to live side by side with these communities without finding a way for them to participate in Sunday worship. A number of questions and concerns arose as they tried to find a solution to their multilingual problem. They considered launching a Spanish-language service, but felt that this would have been planting a church within a church, which was definitely not their goal. They decided on offering simultaneous interpretation, and looked into several hardware solutions, but these were all inconvenient, tacky and ludicrously expensive. There was also the problem of whether the attendees would return the devices after a service. They could not collect IDs or credit cards because many people in the area simply don’t have any. Collecting phones is also impractical. The space in question also lacked a set area for interpreters to work. The discovery of Interactio’s solution came at exactly the right time and met all their needs perfectly.
Newsong have been able to integrate Interactio by quickly getting the word out to their church community. They put flyers on the doors to the sanctuary, they hand out instructions and earbuds at their welcome desk, there are news bulletins each week announcing that services are interpreted, and for the first few weeks they also announced the use of the new system from the stage.
Several churches have tried to get a foothold in Santa Ana but were not willing or able to adapt to the way that locals do church, and were forced to close due to low attendance. Churches in such a diverse area need to be flexible when reaching out to a new demographic.
Getting Newsong’s interpreting service up and running took great commitment from the whole team. The Newsong tech team worked closely with Interactio’s team to configure the proper settings and to run the system efficiently. Finding a place for the interpreters took several weeks as they had to test several locations in the church, including the balcony of the sanctuary, before eventually setting up a back room with a TV monitor linked to audio from the stage and a laptop with the Interactio broadcaster for the interpreters.
Interactio’s mobile system was extremely helpful and convenient in cutting costs, reducing hassle and generally providing a more efficient and less stressful solution than that of using traditional interpreting equipment.
Since introducing Interactio into their church, the Newsong community has been impacted in more ways than expected. Regular attendees at Sunday service now feel like they are truly part of the community as a whole. Every Wednesday they hold The Mix, which offers all kinds of courses, including piano, dance, yoga, karate, and Korean. Although The Mix is separate from Newsong, if any of its attendees are interested in knowing more about God then “we have a place to send them now.”
NewSong’s vision with Interactio is not merely about increasing attendance numbers, but about expanding the reach of their church. All of the Newsong staff are aware of Interactio’s system and are able to think of new ways to integrate it into their own departments. Being able to offer interpreting in such a convenient way has thrown a light on what integration looks like. This has led to the idea of offering services interpreted into Spanish. The plan is to slowly integrate some Spanish verses into their songs. The goal is to fully incorporate Spanish into church activities by the fall of 2017.
Newsong has some great interpreters who are also volunteer church members. One, for example, is bilingual but previously lacked experience in interpreting. She has since discovered that she is a naturally talented interpreter and is interested in pursuing interpreting as a vocation.
This has been a new journey for the speakers as well. Speakers are encouraged to communicate with their interpreter about the message, verses, stories, etc. before each service. Each person in the Newsong team has different roles and priorities, but being aware of this system of interpreting has allowed everyone to play a part in this multilingual environment.
The general feedback from the congregation is, simply, that they are grateful. They are happy to feel included and valued by such a large church. Interactio has opened the door for further integration, community-building and, most importantly, new ways of spreading the Word.