By Gary Miller
One of the things I think about when I write is the diversity of people who read my article. I know there are both women and men. I also know some hunt and fish while some only do one or the other. I also realize that some may hunt only deer while others hunt other species as well. And then there are the turkey hunters who may or may not hunt deer. I could go on and on and on. The other set of readers are those who rarely hunt or fish but may be reminded of a little of this activity when they were young.
Perhaps it’s a memory of a father or grandfather who used to bring in a few squirrels or rabbits to eat. These readers are really the ones I think about most often. The reason is because I realize that many not understand some of the verbiage I might use if I’m only talking to those who hunt and fish all the time. I am constantly thinking about, if the words or phrases I use, are understood by these particular individuals. Because I know, if they can understand, everyone else can as well. I love inclusive language because everyone at the table is not adept in hunterese or fisherese.
I would give my right arm if churches and pastors would take up this approach as well. We invite non-attenders to come “to worship.” Non-attenders (and most attenders) don’t have a clue what that means. We pray a “hedge of protection” around everyone, while our visitors are thinking those are easily jumped over. We ask for “traveling mercies” which I don’t even have a clue where that came from. We talk about being “saved” while most of our guests don’t feel like they are drowning. We are interested in folk’s sanctification while we are in the sanctuary, preparing for Holy Communion, just before singing “Here I raise my Ebenezer,” and after we pray to God using some form of early English. And I’m sure my non-attender friends are thinking, “Who really wants more Lent? And why can’t we learn to spell it like everyone else, along with Maundy (Monday?) Thursday? Which is it? Is it Monday or Thursday?”
I hope you get the idea. It takes a lot more effort for me to include my non-hunting/fishing friends in the conversation. But the cool thing is, I don’t lose my hunting/fishing friends, and I may gain some new guys and gals in the process. I imagine that same thing would work in my church. If my language was more inclusive, there might be more at my table – ready to receive the “right hand of fellowship.” SMH.
Gary Miller can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com