People of words

 Earlier this month, the English language crossed the one-millionth word threshold with the word “Web 2.0.”

Leading up to the millionth word, the Global Language Monitor analytic company reported, was “Jai ho,” a Hindi phrase signifying the joy of victory, which gained English-language popularity through the film “Slumdog Millionaire.

A few words used in major media outlets, were recently denied access to the dictionary – like “staycation,” which means spending a vacation at home, and “bracketology,” the science of NCAA March Madness betting

The one-millionth-and-first word has also already been added – “financial tsunami.”

For the world’s 1.53 billion English speakers around the world, crossing the one-million mark seems like a milestone worth celebrating – a Jai ho moment….

Reading news articles about the event, I learned that the average American uses about 7,500 words a day, and knows about 20,000 words total.

United Methodists, I am convinced, are a people of the word. This was especially apparent during our recent three-day annual session of the Baltimore-Washington Conference in June.

There were 4,213 words in the bishop’s state of the church address. In the pre-conference booklet, we used 47,196 words to lay out the session’s business; and during the 225th session members spoke more than 154,800 words.

Most of these were words of hope. It is often a defining trait of United Methodists to merge their hope with action. Bishop Schol’s benediction reflected that.

“Maybe each of us have to figure out what it means to take these words of the past three days and put flesh to them in our churches, our neighborhoods and our world,” the bishop said. “May God be our guide, and may God be the judge of our speaking and our acting.”

His words mean a great deal to me. They evoked a similar sentiment from the Holocaust Museum in D.C.: “Thou shalt not be a victim. Thou shalt not be a perpetrator. Above all, thou shalt not be a bystander.

Sometimes, I have to confess, I fear The United Methodist Church may too often be witnessing, rather that responding to the people and the world that swirls around us. I’m not always as hopeful as I might be.

But then I watch the 1,400 people of the conference gathered together, working, praying and hoping to become the living Word of God. There is power in that intention.

I don’t know what the exact word would be for that phenomena of United Methodist word merged with action but there should probably be one. 1,000,002.


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