WordsMatter Introduction for Friday and a link to a short video trailer

Here is the introduction I am preparing for the workshop I will lead on Friday for the WordsMatter workshop at the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago convention….and then a link to a cool video clip

Good Morning and welcome to this WordsMatter workshop. This workshop is one way the Episcopal Church is participating in the National Council of Churches Expansive Language project. We have been part of this project for decades. For us the conversation on language found authority in the General Convention of 1985 with resolution AO95 which authorized the creation of inclusive language materials for Sunday and daily worship. These materials are known as Enriching Our Worship.

This particular conversation began in earnest last winter with the reconstruction of the Expansive Language Committee of the NCC’s Women for Justice Working Group. Our vision was to bring a diverse group of Christians together for a conversation on the language we use to talk about and describe ourselves, God, and others. From that conversation we hoped to create a resource that would enable other groups have this same kind of focused discussion. Although this project began as a conversation about inclusive language it quickly grew into a conversation about Expansive language, honoring the various contexts in which Christians live, worship, and come to know self, one another and God.

The Expansive Language Committee organized a consultation that took place here in Chicago from Aug. 9-11. We brought 30 people from as wide a range of Christianity as we could gather: diverse ethnicity, sexuality and gender, denominations, theology, and so on. We asked folks to come with a prepared story to share using a prompt question on a time when language, and by language we mean words, images, and symbols, impacted a person’s faith. The stories were to be about three minutes long. This idea built off of the same concept of personal story sharing used by deputies to General Convention in 2009, who engaged in what is now called “Public Narrative.”

Public Narrative is a leadership art that can be used by members of the Episcopal Church to articulate the call to action that is rooted in one’s own journey and that of one’s community. Public narrative was used to help articulate the theme of General Convention in 2009, Ubuntu , which means: “I am because you are, we are interdependent.”

The purpose of this work was to offer an overview of the art of public narrative and create an opportunity for a broader conversation at General Convention.

The Expansive Language project has adopted story sharing narrative as part of our conversation. Through public narrative and this module we have an opportunity for the Episcopal Church, a community of 7000 congregations and over 2 million members, to articulate a deeper understanding of one another. The sharing of stories and the discussion that follows is intended to expand and deepen our understanding of the cultural contexts in which we live and worship. We will increase our sensitivity to the ways which the language one person/group finds to reveal God/self/others may also be the very language that hurts another person/group. For example, one of the participants at the August consultation was blind. She spoke about the disparaging way we use blindness when talking about faith and spirituality – spiritually blind. For her being blind is her most precious gift, the very characteristic that makes her who she is in God’s image – not a negative thing at all. She said, “when will being blind be the cool thing?”

I serve on the Expansive Language Committee for the Women for Justice Working Group of National Council of Churches. As part of that committee I served on the planning team that organized and staffed the August consultation. I chair the committee that oversees this module and I created the module we are about to review. I am the lead person bringing this project into the Episcopal Church. This is our first effort to teach the module. I will co-lead a second training session in Seattle in December for 12 people, from different dioceses around the country, who are members of Diocesan staff and or seminaries.

My hope is that each of you will take this module and use it in your congregation and send me feedback. I need to send a report to the Standing Committee on Liturgy and Music in January, so if you can use it and report back to me by the middle of January, that will be great. If not please try to use it within the next 6 months and send me feedback.

And now, to the project and how this module works: (and then I’ll present the module).

For more you can follow this link and see a trailer from the August Consultation.


About Terri C Pilarski

I am an Episcopal priest serving a delightfully progressive, interesting, creative congregation. I have been married more than half my life to the same man. We have two grown children, plus two dogs and two cats, although the number of four legged household members changes from time to time. I love to garden, knit, read, and play on Facebook or with my blog. I have been a practitioner of daily meditation since I was nineteen. I practice yoga five days a week and walk every where I am able too.
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3 Responses to WordsMatter Introduction for Friday and a link to a short video trailer

  1. Patti Money says:

    Looks great! The comment from the blind person was particularly thought-provoking. It always helps to hear the perspectives of others.

  2. Wendy says:

    I was thinking the same thing as the previous commenter, but I also really like the way "inclusive" became "expansive." That may just be the crux of how the whole church should be.

  3. Great! I'll never forget understanding the power of language in a new way when I learned about "people-first" language as a student of special education. This fall, I read Cordelia Fine's excellent book Delusions of Gender, and thought more about how our language and thought shape each other. Prayers for this project!

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