Voting is an essential aspect of Presbytery meetings. And it’s one of the places where racial-ethnic disparities are most evident. You can’t vote in a language you don’t understand.
Pacific Presbytery includes 53 local churches with diverse members who speak various languages, including Korean, Spanish, Chinese, and Japanese. Due to its rich diversity, the Presbytery wanted to find a way to make its meetings efficient and engaging while enabling everyone to vote in their preferred language.
We spoke with Shirley Velasco, Executive Administrator of Pacific Presbytery, to learn more about the four ways they realized this goal.
1. Efficient and Inclusive Voting with Multilingual Polls
The first time she joined a Presbytery meeting, Shirley noticed how long it took to count votes.
“I remember thinking this meeting is going on for way too long, and there needs to be a more efficient way of voting.”
She searched for a technological solution and tried a voting platform recommended by other presbyterian colleagues. Unfortunately, that platform proved complicated for many members, with too many options for how to vote and requiring members to download and setup an app.
That’s what led her to try spf.io’s Multilingual Polls.
This multilingual voting platform translates questions and motions into multiple languages, allowing members in their recent presbytery meeting to vote in English or Korean via mobile devices.
Shirley underscored how easy it was for everyone compared to their previous solution:
“The technology is supposed to help us [and] not hinder, right? And so, just eliminating having to text or even download or learn how to use an app, it’s so streamlined. It’s just web-based, and there are two ways to hop on: either use a QR code or this URL, and that’s it.”
The concurrent connections of Pacific Presbytery members who voted using spf.io’s Multilingual Polls in English and Korean.
This simplified voting process received some high praise from several members:
What Presbytery members said about the impact of spf.io’s Multilingual Polls.
And of course, because the polls were translated, Shirley received some especially meaningful feedback from one Korean member: “He was so proud of himself that he was able to help his Korean-speaking colleagues on how to use it. They in turn appreciated it, and it’s all just a beautiful thing.”
In addition to leveraging spf.io’s Multilingual Polls to run an efficient and inclusive meeting, Pacific Presbytery enhanced their multilingual accessibility in several more ways.
2. Integrating Real-time Captions and Translations
A report from PC(USA) in 2021 revealed that around 1,403 church members within Pacific Presbytery are 71 and older. This report also states that around 97 people have hearing loss or disability.
To enhance accessibility for the Deaf and those with hearing loss, the Presbytery implemented spf.io’s real-time captions and translations. The captions and translations enable members to fully engage and easily understand the proceedings without feeling isolated due to disabilities or language barriers.
The audience’s view of the English captions.
3. Providing a Live Interpreter
Pacific Presbytery also chose to provide live Korean interpretation to accommodate Korean members who are not fluent in English. Using spf.io’s audio livestreaming, attendees were able to listen to the interpretation and vote all from the same place on their phones. Spf.io provided an interpreter who understands Presbyterian terminology to ensure attendees could grasp the nuances and context of the discussions.
4. Translating Essential Meeting Documents
Aside from live speech, Presbytery meetings have written materials like dockets or slides.
Using spf.io’s Document Translation Portal, the Presbytery translates meeting dockets and slides into Korean and Spanish in advance. This effort ensures that every member, regardless of their primary language, has equal access to essential information. It also enables them to better understand the meeting’s topics, more actively participate in discussions, and of course, make an informed vote.
Pacific Presbytery is fully leveraging spf.io’s tools to make their meetings more inclusive and efficient. And whether it’s Multilingual Polls, real-time captions and translation, live interpretation, or document translation, all of these features serve a higher purpose. Shirley shares:
“The big ‘why’ [behind our efforts] is ‘love thy neighbor.’ And this is loving them by including them, and saying: ‘Hey, we recognize English is not necessarily your first language, but here’s how you can have equal access to this information and be equally involved with the rest of your Christian colleagues.”
By embracing language access, your Presbytery can conduct efficient and inclusive meetings that strengthen relationships among diverse congregations to discern God’s will together.
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