Words, Words, Words. . .

| Weekly Word

As a person who works with a significant amount of words each week, I am often in awe by both the power of words and how the meanings of words can shift over time.

One expression that has recently received much attention is the word "woke." Most of us regularly use this word as a verb to say something like, "When I woke up this morning. . ." However, over the past few years, the word "woke" has been used as an adjective - with both positive and negative implications.

A quick check of "woke" as an adjective on Merriam-Webster.com reads: “aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice).” The word was used to describe people, for example, who were protesting racial injustice in the summer of 2020. Some people even wore t-shirts with the phrase "Stay Woke" to convey that people should always seek to be aware and attentive to important facts and issues of the present day. You might be interested to learn that the first known use of "woke" in this manner wasn't in 2020. Its earliest use dates way back to 1948.

There are some people, however, who use the word "woke" in a different way - as an insult that looks down at so-called "woke" people for being overly "politically correct." By 2021, the word had become used almost exclusively as a pejorative in a disparaging context. In this disparaging context and in some weird way, in 2022, Bedford Presbyterian Church enters the picture.

A political group in New Hampshire called the "Free State Project" has compiled a list of so-called "woke" churches in our state. They say that the list is to help like-minded people looking for a church to attend. The list categorizes churches by denomination and lists each congregation with a note or two about any signs of "wokeness." According to the list, some churches are "woke" because they display a rainbow flag on their website, have references to Disability Pride Month or native Americans, or have affiliations with the NAACP.

For Bedford Presbyterian Church's entry on the list, whoever compiled the list writes: "Slight indication of wokeness: has a 'Alternative Energy Team Committee' for their new building." Slight error in grammar aside, if the author of the church list is saying that members of our congregation are awake to God's call to be good stewards of creation, then I would agree with this assessment. And, if the author of the church list implies that we are a congregation concerned about being actively attentive to important facts and issues in the world as they relate to God's holy work and saving power, then I would agree with this assessment as well.

"Stay awake," Jesus tells us in Matthew 25:13 - "keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour" of when God will be revealed in our midst. In what ways is God being revealed in the life and ministry of our congregation as we seek to be a people who are awake to both the troubles of our world and the life of the Spirit in the midst of these troubles? In what ways is God being revealed in how we seek, as a congregation, to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly? In what ways is God revealed in how we strive to be a people of peace and reconciliation in these divided times?

If we are awake to what God is doing and seek to be gracious and humble participants in it, and if this makes us eligible for God's list of faithful disciples, then I am proud to be serving among people who have been labeled with "a slight indication of wokeness" or even a "more-than-slight indication of wokeness."

Let us stay awake, dear friends, to the needs of our community, nation, and the world, in light of all that is happening around us.

See you in church!

Grace and Peace,

John

PS: For an additional source on this topic, you can read more here.


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