Darryl is the Mission Coach for Alpine Presbytery and Minister of Kiwi Church, a new-ish congregation in Christchurch
It’s time to change our language folks.
I have 3 teenage boys, which means I feel like I am constantly learning a new language. Their world is so different to mine. To communicate I need to learn their language, like any cross-cultural relationships.
I thought I was fairly young and hip in my approach to life, until I had to get my lads to explain to me what a “meme” was. Then later I had to get them to explain it to me again. And they made fun of me, in a gentle kind of way. I’m ok now. . . well enough to talk about it anyway.
I see many memes on social media, and laugh with my boys when we read some together – even though I suspect what I see funny in it was different to what they see. . .
For those of you who are like me and needs some help, a meme is a recurring joke on the internet, using the same image or phrase, but it gets changed to suit something topical at the time – for example, try Goggling “Trump” and “memes” (and maybe turn on your safe search filter first!) To say that another way, a word, phrase or image adapts to the current context. They carry meaning with them, or people create meaning when they’re interpreted. In the world of social media (one of the worlds we need to understand this century), they create culture. Even my definition would generate discussion over what is really going on when meme’s are shared as some of you will define them differently, and that’s ok.
I want to reflect on our Presbyterian language, and propose a series of blogs. Our words carry meaning, and not always helpful meaning. Language creates culture, and we need a culture shift in the way we be church, do church, and organise ourselves (including how we behave, debate, and make decisions), so it’s time to change some of our words. This is an introduction to a series of blogs suggesting new ways of talking – Ecclesiastical memes – I, II, III, IV (and so on. . . I can laugh at my boys, because they don’t know their Roman numerals as they don’t seem to teach that any more in school – but I do know them, and that knowledge is really important for living life… so there.)
These are words that are part of our every day PCANZ life but possibly unhelpful for future church thinking. They may also be unhelpful when relating to the wider community in New Zealand, but that’s another conversation.
I’m learning that for new ways of imagining church to emerge we need to introduce new words into our vocabulary – like social media has memes. It creates a new culture, and then new ways of expressing life come out of that.
You may have a word that needs some gentle attention – maybe some in our life together as part of the PCANZ. I have a few of them, which I want to blog about: “church,” “clergy,” “interim moderator,” “ministry,” and one of my favourites that I’m really looking forward to writing about (and suggesting it’s time to put to death) . . . “lay.”
If we are to critique our language together there is only one rule – be kind. Actually, maybe a second rule – hold them lightly. They could easily offend, which isn’t my intention. I’m not suggesting a competition, or a debate. It’s a conversation – maybe that’s the first word we could talk about together – “conversation.” I wonder what that looks like in our life together? We can have our pet “rants,” but to look ahead we need to form language together.
I’m looking forward to putting to death some of what I think are our unhelpful, past-their-use-by-date, ecclesiastical memes together! Catch you soon!