From our Chaplain, Canon Graham Bettridge
‘Are you all sitting comfortably, then…’
Words like butterflies flying here and there in the garden alighting at a whim on an unsuspecting flower, ideas, thoughts and idioms, attitudes and intentions, visions, the wings of words like those of the butterfly cross pollinate and enrich our thinking and civilisation. Words have this potent ability to ‘catch on’ and they catch us, almost unconsciously.
A friend of mine, a public speaker, adopted or was adopted by fashionable words of the moment and we soon became expert at spotting the ‘word of the month’. These ranged from ‘cusp’ where every situation was at the very edge of happening; to ‘palpable’ used to describe an atmosphere that could almost be felt, almost ‘tangible’. In due course losing their lustre by repetition the old gave way to the novel and the latest. I do recall however that ‘cutting edge’ had a very good run for its money.
Our minds from earliest memories respond to stories. ‘Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin’ contains a trigger to the familiar excitement and expectation.
The human being learns in story form, our minds, as one psychiatrist said, are story shaped.
We recount again and again to one another the happenings that are important and part of us, and we have the words to bring such memories alive again. These words are infinitely precious and to be used with care. It is good to be reminded at this time when words via Twitter and other ‘social media’ seem to be a very reduced and cheapened currency, that the words we use reveal a part of ourselves to the world.
In earlier times the community listened with intent to those who spoke with ‘authority’. Every village had someone who could sum up and clarify matters of concern: a person who by public acknowledgement spoke wisely. We can recognise today those who can with wise wise words ventilate rather than obscure parish politics or national moods. Recently the Queen’s speech to us all was quoted with approval and she was described as the person with the most unifying and appropriate message for our times. Her Majesty’s words had a directness and held a calming potency.
Like the butterfly, words do stray from their original meaning, they are tools of our imagination and go everywhere. They do, however distantly they may fly from their original meaning, carry a value with them, words have ‘value added’ abilities.
Religious words such as ‘vision’ and ‘mission’ have now become part of big business and corporate thinking. The Cranfield Institute has a mission statement that speaks of ‘unlocking potential in people’ and ‘developing and transforming minds’. This is a cross pollination of more than economic expectations; it speaks of the value of each person enhancing both the individual and the society we are part of. Transforming minds becomes the obverse of the coin ‘I came that you might have life, and have it more abundantly’ being released from self shyness to find who we really are and enjoy ‘the glorious freedom of the people of God.’
My favourite lesson is the last lesson read at the Nine Carols and Lessons service and the first lesson read on Christmas Morning, the Gospel of St John chapter 1 verse one.
Graham W Bettridge
Hon Chaplain Parcevall Hall.
7th July 2020