01 February 2024
How the Methodist Church on the Isle of Man is helping revitalise the Manx language
Revd Dr Janet Corlett, Chair of the Isle of Man Methodist District, began to organise quarterly services alongside Yn Skimmee Gaelgagh (The Manx Language Service) as a way to share the Manx language and culture and to offer a chance for the community to get together.
Paul, Claudia and Rob are amongst the half dozen Manx speakers who participate in the bilingual services organised by Methodists on the Isle of Man. Some are Christians and some are not, but all are united by their love of the Manx language and their desire to preserve and share it.
Claudia is a Christian and a member of the Manx language team, “I love the Manx language and being part of the services that include Manx. I've been working with Janet to organise these services and it's a wonderful thing that we're bringing Manx back regularly as, until recently, we've only had a religious service once a year.”
After many years of decline, the Manx language has seen a sharp increase in the number of speakers since the beginning of this century. Nowadays there are about 3,000 Manx people with varying levels of second-language ability.
“We're very lucky on the Isle of Man that we have a lot of religious-themed literature, including prayer books and hymns. If you're studying the language deeply, you are going to refer to religious works a lot. The island has a very deep religious culture. Early translations of the Bible are a great resource,” says Rob, one of the singers at the bilingual service.
On the island, the Methodist Church was culturally “quite Manx”, particularly in rural communities, where the church was there for the farm workers. It was important to affirm our identity through the language and to find a space where people who are also trying to learn Manx could find a new place to learn.
Bilingual services bring the Manx community together, offering a space to speak and sing in the native language of the island. There is currently a service each quarter but each one has almost a full church and people are asking for more services to be organised.
“Once I started, I found that there was an appetite for it and people found it deeply moving. The services bring the community together as not everyone who comes along normally goes to church,” explains Janet. “We would like to offer more services but it takes time to draw together the resources, translate the text and rehearse.”
Janet also hopes to find Celtic prayers that could be incorporated into the services, “Some of the characteristics of the Celtic Church feel like the place where I am at home. It was always much more equal between men and women, deeply linked to creation and finding God in all things, listening for God.”
The Methodist Church will continue to encourage the revitalisation of the Manx language and culture on the island.