Enhancing Liturgical Translation in Swahili-Speaking East Africa


Fr. James Hargrave meeting with Bishop NEOFITOS and his translation team of the Diocese of Eldoret and Northern Kenya.


"How beautiful it is when all Kenya, when all East Africa, sing the same in uniformity,” His Grace NEOFITOS, Bishop of Eldoret and Northern Kenya, said, commenting on a recent trip made by two members of the OCMC Liturgical Translation Team (LTT), Dr. Michael Colburn, team lead, and Fr. James Hargrave. The Team met with local hierarchs, clergy, and laity about using Doxa, OCMC’s liturgical software, to produce a Digital Chant Stand for East Africa and presented a process to empower people to worship using translations that are accurate, clear, standardized, and natural.

After the team met with His Eminence MAKARIOS, Archbishop Geron of Nairobi, and Fr. Raphael Kamau, who heads the Archdiocese’s Translations and Publications Office, Dr. Michael remained there to lay the groundwork for a pilot project based in Nairobi, and Fr. James traveled around Kenya to present the proposal to the other three hierarchs of Kenya: His Grace NEOFITOS, His Grace MARCOS, Bishop of Kisumu and Western Kenya, and His Grace PANARETOS, Bishop of Nyeri and Mount Kenya. His Grace NEOFITOS remarked, “We were blessed to receive Fr. James Hargrave, who speaks fluent Kiswahili, in our diocese to introduce to some of our clergy [this] project of liturgical translation into different languages.”



Moments captured during the Liturgical Translation Team's visit to East Africa. Dr. Michael discussed translations with Archbishop MAKARIOS (top-left) and demonstrated Doxa to local translators (bottom-left). Fr. James met with Bishop PANARETOS (top-right) and Bishop MARKOS (bottom-right) to discuss the project for a Swahili Digital Chant Stand.

From its inception, an important mission strategy of the Orthodox Church has been to enable the faithful to participate fully in the life of the Church in their own language. This project, as well as a similar Spanish-language Digital Chant Stand called Liturgia Digital undertaken by LTT member Jesse Brandow and launched in October 2023, makes it easier for members of parishes to have access to the liturgical texts and audio recordings in their own language.

Fr. James noted: “My presentation of a program for all East Africa was received with enthusiasm. Translators are already using what resources are available, but many more are needed. Everywhere I went, the first question was, ’When do we start?’” Click below to learn more about the work of the Liturgical Translation Team.


Learn More about the Liturgical Translation Team