Episcopal City Mission Blog

Monday, September 28, 2009

Words of Invitation: A Call, A Provocation

Welcome to the Episcopal City Mission Action and Reflection Blog! This is a blog of the Episcopal City Mission in Boston, Massachusetts, and it is intended to bring you into the circle of conversations about the social witness of the church for economic justice.

This blog is designed to provoke your thoughts as well as to be a catalyst for action.

A few words about our words:

Have you noticed that certain words are intended to invite other words? Certain words are designed to provoke a response from you and keep you in a conversation.

To provoke, by the way is a verb that means “to call forth” from the Latin pro and vocare. The verb vocare means literally to call, like in the word vocation, a call to a certain occupation. Priests, teachers, lawyers and other professionals of the word, are especially skilled in finding the words that get people talking. Certain stories, when told, make your heart beat faster because they resonate with your story and get you eager to tell your story too. The Gospels have generated two thousand years of theological debate, and the debates continue to emerge. No wonder St. John said that “in the beginning was the word…” The evangelists knew the word that would generate many other words, the word that generates worlds.

These same professionals also know how to shut you up! In a court of law, for example, the task of a good lawyer is to silence the opposition. That lawyer will present her case in such a way as to pre-empt any attempt at the opposition to undermine her argument. The point is to win. Words intended to shut the other up. The same happens in science, when a solid piece of research renders the skeptics voiceless. Nothing to say. Case closed. So, words intended to end the conversation also have a critical role in shaping what we know and how we live.

When it comes to policy, however, there are too many “shut ups” in the current debates: vicious distortions of facts, personal attacks, phobias and other biased verbiage that are intended to cause people to fear or to hate a particular view. We will work hard to avoid tabloid shouting matches in these pages. Vigorous disagreement is welcomed. Disagreement is an invitation to talk, a provocation. In our call, however, we need to make this invitation respectful.

A Boston based social scientist has said that “the world is sustained by the tenuous thread of human conversation.” Let us sustain a community of action by the gentle thread of committed reflection.

Welcome again.
Ruy O. Costa, PhD
Executive Director

Save the Date: Annual Meeting June 7, 2011

Keynote speaker The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop the Episcopal Church

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