The Church of England yesterday authorised its first nationally-approved service in Farsi for the benefit of growing congregations of Iranian Christian worshippers.
Its bishops, led by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, said the new Communion service - the Church's central rite - 'affirms the presence of Iranians in churches as a gift'.
The publication of the new Farsi service follows controversy over the arrival in some congregations of Iranian asylum seekers.
In some churches, a high proportion of regular worshippers have been Iranian converts from Islam, and clergy have been given instructions on how to record regular attendance by asylum seekers and advised that they can give evidence on behalf of Iranian churchgoers at asylum tribunal hearings.
Church leaders have also been told that some congregations in working class areas have 'not shared' clergy excitement about the newcomers in the pews.
The new liturgy was introduced in a 'celebration service' in Wakefield Cathedral on Saturday which also included hymns sung and prayers read in both English and Farsi.
The newly-approved service can be conducted in both languages, which are printed side-by-side in versions being made available to churches.
Farsi services have been used locally in churches with Iranian congregations for some time, with the Iranian language in use in the North East and in Birmingham. Liverpool Cathedral has used a locally-produced Farsi order of service for communion.
The development of CofE services in languages other than English has become increasingly fashionable in recent years.
Services have been authorised in French to accommodate Anglican churchgoers in West London, where several hundred thousand generally high-earning French migrants have gathered since the 1990s.
Officially-approved services are also available in Mandarin for Chinese-speaking Christians.
The Wakefield service was led by the Iranian-born Bishop of Loughborough, the Right Reverend Guli Francis-Dehqani.
She is the daughter of an Anglican bishop whose family fled the Iranian revolution in 1980 after her mother was shot in an armed raid on the family home. Her brother was later murdered in Tehran.
She said yesterday: 'This translated service of Holy Communion is hugely significant within the life of the Church of England as we seek to find ways of recognising the diversity which is increasingly the reality of the Church of England.
'We have had, over the last few years, over 75 clergy contact us to ask how can we best help to integrate the Iranians who we find are coming to our churches, so in this liturgy what we're doing is formally recognising a minority community as part of our wider body and crucially enabling Persian, Farsi speaking people and English speaking people to worship alongside one another.'
The asylum connection to Iranian conversion has been clear at some parish churches. One church in Stockton-on-Tees has baptised 200 Iranian asylum seekers, according to documents produced for the Church's parliament, the General Synod.
Many of the converts are thought to have used their beliefs as part of asylum claims put to the Home Office and to immigration court hearings.
Iranians have also been joining churches in numbers in Stoke-on-Trent, Nottingham, Manchester and Liverpool.
The CofE has a 'Presence and Engagement Programme' which has supplied guidance to clergy on giving support to asylum seekers.
Clergy are told that they should record church attendance of converts and if there is a tribunal hearing may attend court to give evidence that the conversion is genuine.
Supporters should also come to court - but they are warned that 'judges are likely to react negatively if there is anything like an organised demonstration.'
Where someone has already had an asylum application turned down, a conversion to Christianity may allow a new claim, clergy have been advised.
A report produced for the Church in 2017 by the Bishop of Wakefield, the Right Reverend Tony Robinson, said: 'Where less affluent congregants remain by necessity rather than choice, unsurprisingly they struggle to embrace the Church's changing role in diverse communities.'
It added: 'Many clergy are excited about the opportunities multi-religious contexts provide for building relationships and sharing faith, but find this attitude is not shared by their congregations.'
This article has been adapted from its original source.
© Associated Newspapers Ltd.