Posts Tagged language

SCSLHA Adopts Say Something Nice Day

The South Carolina Speech Language and Hearing Association has adopted the celebration of Say Something Nice Day on June first as one of its special projects. Thanks to the enthusiastic support of the immediate past president, Dr. Jackie Jones-Brown, CCC-SLP. The association has more than 1,000 members and touches every corner of South Carolina. Their support will go a long way toward our goal of more respectful speech and of creating a healthier workplace.

I had the wonderful pleasure of meeting with old friends and making new ones at the Past President’s Luncheon last Thursday in North Charleston. These folks have dedicated their careers to helping everyone young and old develop more effective communication skills. It is an organization in which I am proud to claim membership. The growth and accomplishments of the association are simply phenomenal.

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Consider How Your Words Can Heal or Hurt – James Gordon – Ethics Daily

Consider How Your Words Can Heal or Hurt | James Gordon, Speech, Civility, Lent

I am persuaded that an ethic of language, a care for the words we speak and for the words we hear, is a crucial aspect of Christian witness, Gordon says. (Image courtesy of stockimages/FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

The first clause of the theological masterpiece, which is the Gospel of John, proclaims “In the beginning was the Word.”

The first words of God at the beginning of all things, according to that equally remarkable meteor of theology, the creation story in Genesis, are “And God said, ‘Let there be light.'”

For Christians, those two moments of divine articulation should be enough to teach us respect, indeed reverence, for words.

Whether written or spoken, words have performative power. They make things happen, they have an impact, they influence for good or ill, persuade of truth or lie, affirm or diminish, enlighten or deceive, liberate or oppress, heal or hurt.

As a Christian, I have a responsibility to give an account of my words. Indeed, Jesus warned that the day would come when we will give an account of every word we have spoken (Matthew 12:36).

Now there’s a warning for the biblical literalist self-righteously ramming their words of truth down other people’s throats.

Elsewhere in the gospels, there’s a quite different scenario – a Roman centurion, a man of few words and most of them were orders to other people (Matthew 8:5-13).

His personal servant is about to die, but he has heard Jesus is a healer, someone who speaks with authority. So he uses his networks and his influence, he sends Jewish elders to bring Jesus.

To cut a short story shorter, the centurion gets a message to Jesus, “Say the word and my servant will be healed.”

Now there’s a man who knows what words are for, who understands the power of the spoken word, someone used to seeing the performative power of words.

We live in a culture buried under words and blinded by an endless supply of new or familiar flickering images.

We hear so much, we are losing our hearing; we see so much our sight is blurring from image overload.

But staying with words for the present, Marilyn Chandler McIntyre, in her book, “Caring for Words in a World of Lies,” states with prophetic frankness, “Like any other life-sustaining resource, language can be depleted, polluted, contaminated, eroded and filled with artificial stimulants.”

I am persuaded that an ethic of language, a care for the words we speak and for the words we hear, is a crucial aspect of Christian witness.

From the praise songs we sing to the texts we send; from our conversations at work to the confidences we hold in trust for others; from the jokes we tell and laugh at to the lies we refuse to tell; from the clever put downs of those we dislike to the caring affirmations of other people’s worth; language carries with it obligations to which the follower of Jesus has to attend.

That’s why this Lent we should consider the nature of language – what it is that we do when we speak words to each other, how to endow words with sacramental significance so that speech becomes a means of grace, a strengthening of the soul in ourselves and others, and an influence for good, compassion, truthfulness and conciliation in our society.

I’m tired of cliché and spin, of the conspiracy, not of silence, but of unworthy words spoken in half-truth – evasive rather than clarifying, cruel rather than compassionate, empty of human communion rather than full of attentive human presence.

At a time when the Western world near absolutizes freedom of speech and expression, it’s time to examine much more closely the proper constraints on speech and expression.

It is time, too, to recognize the power of language to dehumanize and diminish other human beings in the interests of our own agendas, prejudices and unacknowledged as well as confessed enmities.

James Gordon is part-time minister of Montrose Baptist Church in Angus, Scotland, and the former principal of the Scottish Baptist College. He is on the advisory board of the Centre for Ministry Studies, University of Aberdeen, and continues as an occasional lecturer on practical theology and areas of ministry. A version of this article first appeared on his blog, Living Wittily, and is used with permission.

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Power of Words – Charleston Post and Courier Letters

July 13, 2014

I was working toward my master’s degree when I first heard a professor use profanity directed at a student.

In undergraduate school, I was a member of the debate team; therefore, I traveled to numerous colleges, universities, tournaments and conventions. I interacted with hundreds of professors.

While working toward my doctorate at LSU, I never heard a professor use inappropriate language toward a student.

During a lifetime of teaching, I have never heard a professor savagely attack a student, the student’s parents or the university that pays his or her salary.

Student athletes have far more exposure to coaches than the regular students have to their professors.

Students attend college to prepare for a career and to help them develop into productive adults. It is a crucial time in their lives.

Why would an educational institution employ someone who destroys the self-esteem of those students or undercuts their self-confidence? How much is the mental health of a student worth?

Words are powerful. They have the power to hurt or heal. That words are more powerful than the sword is more than a cliché. Most of us carry scars from some long ago unkind remark from someone important to our lives.

If a professor or coach hit a student there would be no debate. Bullying is counterproductive where ever and whenever it occurs.

Mitch Carnell

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Church Jargon Jettisoned for Better Communication

On Jul 4, 2014, at 3:36 PM, Joe Gilliland <joeterry1933@gmail.com> wrote:
The attached Episcopal News Service piece is an extremely significant newsfeature, in my opinion.  It concerns an issue that has been on my mind, even before I became an Episcopalian.  When I read it, I knew it would stir up some people.  For that reason, I have attached the comments, which reflect that.

The commenters have some understandable concerns, although I cannot help wondering if some are not protesting a little too much.  It seems a real stretch to me, for example, when one comment says,that, after all, peculiar Episcopal terminology, is something like the that used by the Marines and the Masons!  It also reminds me of when a young rector more than 50 years ago chided me for referring to the bottom floor of the church building as the basement, rather than as the undercroft, or for referring to the church yard, instead of the “church green.”  The statement by one bishop quoted also resonates with me when he notes that the Nicene Creed in many ways had a different meaning at the time it was written from what it means today (realizing, of course that we are reading a translation and not always knowing the historical context).
This discussion all reminds me that paying attention to language is an important part of widening the church’s circle.  One of the first things I learned in a college linguistics course is that language is constantly changing.  It seems that in the Episcopal Church, among others, it hasn’t always been that constant.
By Pat McCaughan | July 3, 2014 29 Comments |

[Episcopal News Service] The Rev. Scott Claassen of thads describes himself as “a Monday through Saturday follower of Jesus who worships on Sunday.”

He believes it conveys a clearer understanding of what his faith means to him than “Episcopalian” or even “Christian”.

“The main point is, it inverts our sense of discipleship from saying being a disciple means I go to church on Sunday,” Claassen, 35, told ENS recently. “Instead it says being a disciple means I practice this Jesus way throughout all of my life and I happen to get together with a bunch of other people on Sunday who do that, too.”

Call it semantics, but Claassen isn’t alone. Increasingly, individuals, congregations and even dioceses across the Episcopal Church are shifting language subtly – and not so subtly – to clarify identity and meaning and to make cultural and contextual connections.

Churches and congregations are becoming known as “communities of faith” and “centers of mission” and the word diocese has been dropped in favor of “The Episcopal Church in” places like Minnesota and Connecticut.

None of which is meant as “a strategy to get people to come to church, it’s just who we are at the core,” according to the Rev. Jimmy Bartz. He founded thads eight years ago as an “experimental community, or in church-speak, a mission station” of the Diocese of Los Angeles, he said.

“We’re about spreading love and making a difference wherever we are because that’s what Jesus was about and we’re committed to doing it together,” Bartz said. “It’s like that old country song, ‘be real baby, be real.’”

Becoming tradition ‘translators’
Helping the uninitiated navigate insider church-speak, complex liturgies and specific Episcopalianisms often involves becoming “translators, of sorts,” according to Bartz and others.

“It comes from this great gift that’s been afforded by learning the language of the Episcopal Church and its liturgy and tradition and wanting the culture to understand those gifts but having some sense that it’s too great of an expectation for me to demand that the culture learn the language that I’ve learned,” Bartz said.

The Rev. Becky Zartman, when reaching out to the largely millennial population in Washington, D.C.’s Dupont Circle neighborhood, talks “about networks, about groups of people in relationship with each other who love each other and who are trying to be faithful Christians together.

“That’s what I think of when I think of church. But some people think of it as a building or an institution or cathedral or something you only do on Sunday morning,” said Zartman, 29, assistant rector at St. Thomas, Dupont Circle, who blogs as the Vicar of H Street.

And when she blogs, “if I ever use a church word I define it or explain what it means. Better yet, I don’t use it. I might write an entire reflection on the Incarnation and never use the word. People either don’t know what it means or think they do and they don’t.”

And much of the time, “I’m starting in the negative,” she adds. “Because people have a negative connotation of the church or think that Christians are stupid. The problem is, church is such an umbrella term.

“In talking to millennials who have no positive experience with the institutional church, I’m still trying to figure out how do I explain this thing that we’re doing. I’m trying to be accessible, but to go deeper at the same time.”

St. Thomas’ vestry member Catherine Manhardt agreed.

“We have this really amazing church and liturgy and worship and common prayer and it’s central to who we are, once we get there,” she said. “But when you say I’m Episcopalian because the Eucharist is really important to me, that’s not going to resonate with people, and you want people to understand what you’re talking about.”

Rather than telling friends she serves on the vestry, “I say board of directors,” adds Manhardt, 25. Evangelism becomes “community engagement.

“For me, the most important part about church is the community … I don’t want to make who we are a barrier to the kind of people who could become part of our community.”

‘Communities of faith becoming centers of mission’
Through the New Visions Initiative (NVI) which partners thriving historically African American congregations with struggling ones, the Rev. Angela Ifill, the Episcopal Church’s missioner for black ministries, has witnessed language shifts re-energize congregations.

“Language plays a huge part in the way parishioners think of themselves,” Ifill said in a recent e-mail to ENS.

Her invitation to a New Visions group “to think of themselves as communities of faith becoming centers of mission, brought the question, ‘You mean we have to be doing something?’” she recalled. “It was a break-through in better understanding their purpose for being.”

Similarly, “praying communities” and “Episcopal presences” are the way Bishop David Rice describes “who we are, by talking about what we do … because the reality for me is that theEpiscopal Diocese of San Joaquin is a praying community and within that are many praying communities,” he said.

“The primary intent is Luke 10, being sent out, hearing the stories of people, responding to needs, and building relationships, but not as a roundabout way of ensuring that we get people into church.”

Since his March 2014 election, “the typical question I ask everywhere is, ‘what does an Episcopal presence look like in this context? What do people say about the Episcopal Church where they are” including those who don’t attend church, he said.

Bishops Ian Douglas of Connecticut and Brian Prior of Minnesota each recognized a name change was in order when they realized the word “diocese” conveyed images of buildings and bishops rather than a sense of community, inclusion, and corporate identity.

A recent shift to “the Episcopal Church in Connecticut” actually reclaims tradition and common identity, Douglas said. “It was the original name of who we were when Samuel Seabury, the first bishop in the Episcopal Church, signed the Concordat with the three nonjuring bishops in the Episcopal Church of Scotland in 1784,” Douglas said.

The word “diocese” came along in the late 1830s and became associated with the bishop’s office and staff rather than “the united witness of the 168 parishes and worshiping communities participating in the mission of God together,” he said.

A move to a new, flexible shared workspace with an open floor plan accompanied the name change. It’s known as the Commons of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut, echoing the New England metaphor of the village green as a center of activity. Initial feedback has been extremely positive, Douglas said.

Similarly, “the Episcopal Church in Minnesota” conveys the reality “that our faith communities come in all sizes and shapes and contexts” including churches, senior housing, schools, campus ministries and other agencies who worship corporately, according to Bishop Brian Prior.

Yet, “we’re really clear in our language and in the big picture that the Episcopal Church in Minnesota (ECIM) is a diocese of The Episcopal Church; there’s never been a question about that.”

Language shifts prompted structural changes, he said. “I joke that there is no bishop’s staff here,” Prior says. “The only staff I have is the one I carry in procession.”

The diocese consists of “mission areas”, invited “to get clear about their identity and context, about what God’s up to in their neighborhood and to find a sustainable model for living into God’s mission in their context.”

As a result, Prior said. “More Minnesota Episcopalians know about the world’s needs and how to bring their gifts to meet the world’s needs to engage God’s mission” on local and individual levels, rather than trying “to get everybody into church.”

He hopes to revise parochial reports to measure, in addition to budgets and average Sunday attendance (ASA), levels of community impact.

For example, “there’s a faith community here with an ASA of 19 who feeds a hundred people every Friday. They have a huge impact on their community. That’s vibrancy. That’s really engaging in God’s mission, and that’s of more interest to us.”

‘No one-size-fits-all’
Language shifts notwithstanding, no one-size-fits-all; Episcopal identity still encompasses a wide spectrum, from evangelicals to Anglo-Catholics, say Prior and others.

Personally, says Bartz, “it drives me crazy that I hear from Episcopalians all the time, that ‘I can go anywhere in the country and get the same thing in church,’” he said.

“I think that’s a devastating indictment about how shallow our church has become, that we really don’t expect anything from people other than the execution of a particular liturgy in a particular way on Sunday morning. I understand it, but it drives me crazy.”

But for Broderick Greer, 24, a former Missionary Baptist and current Virginia Theological Seminary student, the liturgy’s poetic language was a way into the church. “I had run out of words in my personal prayer life and the church was able to say words it had been saying for centuries that I just couldn’t find for myself.”

Consistently asking the questions of faith – as individuals, as churches, as dioceses – is a given, and the challenge of inaccessible language can be overcome by the church “educating its people and those outside it,” he said.

“We say the Nicene Creed every week but we know that it doesn’t mean the same thing to us as to the people who wrote it. And so that’s why there is value in saying the same words that people have always said but knowing that those words are not static. They are living and offer life and new meaning for us and part of the task of the church is constantly interpreting what these words mean.”

About 40 Twitter followers responded to his recent tweet ‘what first drew you to the Episcopal Church?’ which he compiled into a Storify. For many, liturgy and language were the attractions.

“I thought to myself … why are we not tapping into this gift we have and sharing it with the world?” Greer said. “We think it’s so great and yet we don’t tell anyone about it and don’t tell anyone about the Christ we encounter in it.”

– The Rev. Pat McCaughan is a correspondent for the Episcopal News Service.

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