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Inclusive Language

Ruth has the skinny on the Inclusive Language amendments that the College of Bishops has licensed for permitted use.

The paper proclaiming these amendments has not reached these parts and I’m not sure what that situation means liturgically.

Most of the amendments are not particularly surprising, and indeed, some of them have been in use for many years in St Mary’s, licensed more by the gentle nodding of one mitre or another than by any more troublesome process.

I’m in favour of using language that does not leave people feeling left out of worship. It seems to me to be more a matter of politeness than theology. And theology is trumped by politesse as all good Anglicans know.

Here in St Mary’s we do have an inclusive language policy and so incorporting the amendments which are now on offer and which we don’t already include will happen without, I suspect, any fuss at all.

Generally speaking at St Mary’s, you can expect to find us trying to use language that is inclusive of persons at all modern language services. Choral Evensong and the 1970 Liturgy we don’t mess too much with. We try to use inclusive language in hymnody and actively look for inclusive versions of hymns. That’s been the tradition since long before I got here. Its also harder to do than it seems.

There are a small number of exceptions which I do allow through the net. Dear Lord and Father of mankind is a hymn I can’t quite bear to lose and can’t quite bear to change the first line of. The other obvious one from the past is He who would valient be. It seems to both myself and to the director of music that its permissable to allow exclusive language in hymns which directly address the reality of hobgoblins.

I’m no pushover though. Some things just don’t get sung no more, no more. Firmly I may believe and truely, but it won’t be sung here whilst I am provost.

We try to use a wide variety of imagery relating to God in what we sing here. That means looking out for hymns which use things other than male language (Father, Lord, King) to balance those which do use such language.

As always with hymns, you can’t please everyone. However I think our hymnody is, whilst tending occasionally towards the eccentric, the most exciting I’ve found anywhere.

Christmas Carols can be trouble, whichever way you approach them. And I’ve been planning Christmas just this week.

As for the new amendments that the Bishops are permitting, I welcome the texts. I don’t welcome the way this has been done. If it was worth doing, it was worth going through a synodical process and amending the actual texts so that these were for everyone and not simply options. That’s what we have always done before. This method rather makes one feel that the Fathers think that they know better than the rest of us and don’t really think this is that important.

Not quite the desired message when dealing with issues of inclusivity, I’d have said.

(Indeed, I think I did say so at General Synod last year, if I remember rightly).