Magazine article Anglican Journal

Learning to Speak Anglican

Magazine article Anglican Journal

Learning to Speak Anglican

Article excerpt

"Now THAT'S a Lambeth of an idea!" exclaimed the bishop.

This led to a hearty round of knee-slapping and head-tossing by everyone in the room.

Everyone except me.

Recognizing that I had missed the inside joke, I did what anyone else in that situation would have done: I faked it. And pretended to-have a delayed reaction to the utter hilarity of a reference that flew way over my head.

After the meeting, I googled "Lambeth." The official London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury in England. Then, I carefully stored the meaning and its context in my cerebral file. The one that's labelled "useful tidbits on being Anglican."

I was five years into my life with the church and had still not learned to speak fluent Anglican, I had no idea what an odyssey of trial and error, shame and humiliation, it was going to be.

Before I joined the church, I thought of myself as gifted with languages. After all, it had taken me only six months to learn to speak fluent Spanish. But more than a decade post-confirmation, I was still tongue-tied and suffering from an acute case of "foot in mouth" syndrome whenever I ventured out of the safety of my pew and did anything more than pray silently.

There was, however, a period during my diocesan congregational development work when I really felt I had arrived. I was having a prolocutorial, hermeneutical, Lambeth Ian good time! But on congregational visits, I soon discovered that my Dickensian love affair with the uncommonness of my new language was alienating me from the very people I had been called to serve. I had inadvertently become an "insider's insider"--difficult to understand and even harder to warm up to.

I quickly remedied the situation by adopting a hybrid vocabulary: calling on appropriate Anglicanisms so as not to offend clergy; and at the same time, being careful to include enough everyday language for everybody else. I noticed this new, dual approach reduced the number of people who visibly winced whenever I spoke.

Still, I have not been able to completely divest myself of my amateur standing in the speaking Anglican department. In spite of my best efforts, many slap-on-the-wrist moments remain. Its left me wondering if I will ever get it right.

For example, I used to say "sermon" as in "I really enjoyed your sermon this morning" until I was told that it ought to be "homily." Note taken. Moments later, with someone else, I am told not to use "homily. …

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