Posts Tagged language

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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Blessed Is He Who Writes Without Using Smiley Faces – Ethics Daily

Bob Newell

Posted: Friday, March 28, 2014 6:12 am ethicsdaily.com

Blessed Is He Who Writes Without Using Smiley Faces | Bob Newell, Facebook, Social Networking, Friendship, Relationships

Blessed is he or she whose written words can stand the light of clever inquisition without a preemptive smiley face, Newell writes.

Pity the elusive mouse who must struggle to disconnect himself in the minds of youthful humans from the ubiquitous, plasticized keyboard kind.

Does anyone any longer recognize the fundamental literary distinction between Walt’s beloved “Mickey” and some cordless, unconnected robot rodent? What have we done with our words? Rats!

Shame on the unwashed who thoughtlessly seem unable to differentiate the dissimilarity in essence that divides a computer keyboard and one played upon powerfully by Liberace or pounded upon forcefully by the fiery Jerry Lee Lewis.

Oh, how far has the never very noble Spam now fallen from its wartime usage as a marker for government-produced, cheap mixed meat to its contemporary reference to the unwanted and quickly-consigned-to-electronic-hell of today’s easy come, easy go communication.

And what has become of the serious obligation of equally serious deletion? Where is today’s cutting room floor?

Those who vociferously bemoan the disastrous decline in what was once considered polite, civil discourse might well spend a few well-chosen words of grief over the corruption of common communication.

In addition to the sharp descent of civil conversation in the public electronic square, is it grammatically correct always, insistently and increasingly to be angry?

“O, brother, where art thou?” Where have all the blessed beatitudes gone, “long time passing”? Blessed are those who need not place “LOL” after their messages to communicate their humorous intentions.

Blessed is he or she whose written words can stand the light of clever inquisition without a preemptive smiley face.

How sideways have become our smirking smiles, how crooked our occasional grinning communication.

Those that live by spell-check shall face an equal and equivalent death.

How curious has the malfeasance of our modern speech construction become. How “wearifying” the written art is fast de-evolving.

Perhaps nowhere is this language loss more obvious that the steep degradation of the treasured old-English word, “friend.”

“There is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother,” it was once said and believed, in King James English; but modern friends seem to have little elasticity and even less “stickability.”

To be a Facebook kind of friend is unlike any previous species of genuine friendship and surely bears no resemblance to the Quaker kind. A true friend does not ask to be liked.

If it is sadly true that one can be “unfriended” and if friendship may indeed be a verb, isn’t it also true that authentic friendships are rarely so numerous as our electronic ones.

Real friends neither brag about their number nor boast of their political or ideological inclinations nor ruthlessly exclude those with whom they might potentially disagree.

Neither do they post only highly idealized or PhotoShopped versions of themselves solely for other so-called friends or groupies to admire.

It is actually rare for authentic friends to complain publicly to the unfriendly world of sleeplessness or send out detailed reports of intimate toilet habits to be shared with a host of so-called friends and many other unsuspecting passers-by.

If the tin-alley wordsmith once suggested of friendship that “it’s the perfect blend-ship,” there seems less and less to blend, so little longing for harmony.

Khalil Gibran, after all, said, “Let there be spaces in your togetherness.” But, in our days, we seek uniformity of thinking and conformity of doing from our erstwhile friends.

What thinkest thou? In our speech and written communication, can we be no more precise and selective than this? Can we not observe some boundaries?

Can we forego some less important things, in order to experience genuine communication with others? Can we, at least, think as much as we type?

When our words cannot be more properly managed, what hope is there for our ways?

Bob Newell is ministry coordinator for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship in Athens, Greece. A version of this column first appeared on his blog, ItsGreek2U, and is used with permission.

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Thinking Theologically – Molly Marshall

Thursday, April 18, 2013 Thinking Theologically – Associated Baptist Press

Demystifying Christian vocation

“I am working in the field of adoption. I wasn’t able to find a church position after I finished seminary.”

“I oversee the freshmen dorms at a state university. You would not believe what comes through my door, but I am not sure this qualifies as Christian vocation.”

These comments came from two 30-somethings, concerned about their fidelity to a call from God. I visited a sister seminary this past week to offer lectures and listened to these graduates describe their work, both feeling as if they were not really in ministry.

I think it is time to demystify our language about what it means to be “called” and how we exercise our giftedness. This will grow increasingly important as we realize that guaranteed lifetime employment in a congregational setting will most likely become less of an option for seminary graduates. Rather than relegating persons who serve in other contexts to a differing status, it is important that we rethink our theology of vocation.

Rather than the old language of “full-time Christian vocation,” which meant paid pastoral staff work or long-term missionary appointment, our day requires a more comprehensive and imaginative description.

I believe that some of the most important ministry will occur beyond the walls of the church. Those not considered religious “professionals” will offer much of it.

Educators, engineers, endocrinologists, essayists, entrepreneurs and entertainers — to just name a few “e” professions — have distinctive contributions to make, and they can be expressions of gifted Christian vocation.

Are the gifts we use in the service of the church different from the gifts we use in our other work? What makes a gift “spiritual?”

Jürgen Moltmann helps correct some misconceptions about the nature of spiritual gifts by linking call and endowment. Instead of opposing natural gifts to spiritual gifts, he sees that when people are called (1 Corinthians 7:17), God “puts their whole life at the service of the coming kingdom, which renews the world.”

When offered to Christ, all gifts become charges, and nothing can be called unclean. Powers and energies that a person might regard as mundane can become instruments of the Spirit.

New thinking about vocation can assist in bridging the secular-sacred divide that has long plagued Christian thinking. Emergent Christianity finds these categories a false dichotomy and strives for a porous interface.

Anything that gets labeled as “secular” seems to be of negligent concern to God — or Christians, for that matter. Cultural and civic life matter, and Christian witness in them must be strengthened. Indeed, there are many channels for God’s work in the world, and divine power enlists human agency wherever possible.

As a person engaged in theological education, I care deeply about preparing persons for certain leadership roles for congregations, but I do not see our school’s mission as confined to that. We are preparing people to serve the common good in myriad ways.

There is a mission to humanity that is more encompassing than churches often envision. Our graduates exercise their callings through social services, public policy, collegiate ministries, health care, teaching in public schools, journalism, sustainable farming, hospice and counseling. All are contexts for transformative investment.

And all are worthy of being considered Christian vocation. Even as we encourage churches to “cultivate a culture of calling” so that new generations of pastors will emerge, we must not neglect a wider vision of vocation for the whole people of God.

I had an opportunity to speak again with these capable Christian ministers after the lectureship, and I inquired whether I had affirmed that what they are doing is truly Christian vocation.

They said that they sensed a new dignity in their professions and that they had not “left ministry.” I commended them for their remarkable work. They have opportunity to be the hands and feet, indeed the very presence of Christ, with those whose lives they intersect.

Dr. Molly Marshall is president of Central Baptist Seminary and a favorite speaker at the Hamrick Lectureship at First Baptist Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

 

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