Friday, September 29, 2006

Speaking in UU tongues

"What's GA?" a reader asks.
Oops...I've been speaking in tongues again. What's speaking in tongues? Some say it's a gift of the Spirit, but I say it's displaying one's special relationship with the divine in public and in a way which leaves others out. I find that off-putting. In this case, speaking in UU tongues is thoughtlessly displaying one's special knowledge of the goingings on of a church in ways which leave others out. As in using all our special code words without explanation. GA, MDD, YRUU, and Cluster, come immediately to mind.

GA is General Assembly, our yearly denominational delegate assembly. Thanks for asking. I know how off-putting it is when people around me start spouting terms, acronyms, and in-talk. I feel left out, dumb, and not invited in. Very unpleasant feeling.

And it happens all the time. Understandably, but unpleasantly. The folks who have been putting on a quarterly meal for the homeless in an interfaith effort for five years know what "Project Share" is. But the forget that many people don't have a clue when the announcement says, "Project Share is coming up this month! Please sign up to provide brownies, salad, beans..."

Not only does that "in group" announcement mean that some people who might feel very good about participating in this worthy project don't because they thought it was a church picnic, but they get the message, "You don't really belong. You don't know the lingo. You're not initiated."

It's not a good feeling. Leaving people clueless is not even marginally, much less radically hospitable. (We've been talking about radical hospitality in our denomination lately.) Speaking in UU tongues is something we should all be on the watch for.


Steamhead said...

Funny you should mention that one. I changed the scrolling announcements at last week's video service to read "We feed the hungry and homeless at Project Share...." I thought it was too abrupt and vague, too.

And MM and I were talking this week about teaching people to write, and the stylistic differences between spoken language (where much is left unsaid, but can be clarified with a question, if needed) and written language (where logical progression and completeness of information are demanded). We all use the disjointed and elliptic style when talking, but those of us who write are held to higher standards (or those of us who edit hold everyone else to higher standards). When someone does talk in a logical and precise style (as at that recent meeting about the facilities plan), everyone else rolls their eyes and thinks "he still talks like a college professor". But they do appreciate the clarity.

So, that kind of announcement is a natural thing to do, but it's very good to be aware of it. You're now an editor, functionally, if not in title.

Turtle Mountain said...

Great save, Steamhead! Terrific! (As I said, mjae - these are good people!) You should give UU a try. Truly.