Monday, September 13, 2004

Nashville churches diversify, multiply by teaching English

"The Wednesday-night English-as-a-second-language lessons at West End Church of Christ are among a growing number of such classes - called 'language missions' by many churches - that are drawing more and more recent immigrants into church basements and meeting rooms across Nashville."

"Hickory Grove Presbyterian pastor Mike Graham said he hoped the classes would be a way for his small congregation of 80-90 to expand and include more of the area's Hispanic community."

"'We're not a picture of all tribes, tongues and nations working together. We don't want to be just an Anglo church.'"

"More than half of all immigrants ages 5 and older in Middle Tennessee speak little or no English, according to the U.S. Census. Those immigrants have fueled a growing demand for English classes. More than 6,000 students enrolled in Metro adult ESL classes last year alone."

"More than two dozen new Southern Baptist 'language congregations' - non-English-speaking churches - open in Tennessee each year, and some start as offshoots of ESL programs, said Tim Hill of the Tennessee Baptist Convention."

"More than 100 churches responded to Hill's last survey of ESL programs, and Hill estimates there are twice that many Tennessee Southern Baptist churches offering some kind of regular English lessons to immigrants."

The Tennessean

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