By Kara Witherow, Editor
It’s not often that Russian is spoken with a Southern accent, but on Sunday, Sept. 16, members of Svetlana Thompson’s family in central Russia heard “приветственная семья – Welcome, family of Lana,” in a distinctly South Georgia drawl.
From half a world away, they watched via livestream as Rev. Ted Goshorn, pastor of Eastman United Methodist Church, welcomed congregants to worship and led the congregation through the liturgy from The United Methodist Hymnal.
Svetlana (Lana) and Benji Thompson had chosen the day to have their son, Glen Sergei, baptized, and through the United Methodist connection and the power of technology, her family in Russia was able to watch and participate.
Allison Lindsey, associate director of Connectional Ministries, helped Rev. Goshorn contact the Eurasia Annual Conference, and through them he was able to procure a copy of the liturgy in Russian. Lana and Google Translate helped with translation and pronunciation. A phone, tripod, and Wi-Fi enabled the livestream. The Holy Spirit was present in everything.
Rev. Goshorn was able to conduct the baptism in English and Russian, asking both sides of the family if they would support Glen Sergei.
“Will you support his faith?” Rev. Goshorn asked Benji’s family.
“Будете ли вы поддерживать его веру,” he repeated to Lana’s family.
At the moment of the baptism itself, Rev. Goshorn recited the first part in Russian, “Я крещу вас во имя Отца, Сына и Святого Духа (I baptize you in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), and said the second part, “The Holy Spirit work within you that being born by water and the Spirit you may be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ,” in English. Prior to the baptism Rev. Goshorn explained to the congregation that, as a nod to Glen Sergei’s dual heritage and to include both families, he would split the baptism between the two languages.
“Going into this, I knew zero Russian,” Rev. Goshorn said. “I wanted to honor Lana’s heritage as well as Benji’s, especially because Lana spent the vast majority of her life in Russia. I spoke the phrases slowly and I’m sure I sounded like one who doesn’t know Russian, but Lana said her parents could understand what I said, so that’s a win! The baptism went very well.”
After the baptism, the Thompson family joined the church.
Rev. Goshorn and the Thompsons are thankful for the United Methodist connection and technology that helped transcend language barriers and time zones!