Dear People of St. Catherine’s,
Recently I read a book entitled, The Dictionary of Lost Words, by Pip Williams. It is a novel about a girl whose father worked on the team compiling the Oxford English Dictionary in the late 19th century. The girl, named Esme, lost her mother and lives with her father. Early on in the book, when Esme is about eight years old, she is talking with her aunt about what her mother was like.
“When we talk about her, she comes to life.”
“Never forget that, Esme. Words are our tools of resurrection”
As the book goes along, Esme grows into a young woman, and she collects words that didn’t make it into the Oxford English Dictionary, words that describe and reflect women’s lives, feelings, and relationships. Eventually, her collected words are published, by the man she marries, as a book entitled Women’s Words and Their Meanings.
By now, you know I love words. I write them often, speak them regularly, read them all the time, and am entranced, moved, stimulated, challenged, and changed by the words in my life. But Esme’s aunt comes closest to the mystery and grace of words – and the Word – when she calls them “tools of resurrection.”
Think of their power. Just last week, the judge in Minneapolis read the verdict of the jury: we the jury, as to the first count, find the defendant, Derek Chauvin, guilty.” What breathless power in those words to breathe life into grieving communities. What hope in those words to heal a nation. Words. Just words. But maybe “tools of resurrection.”
We are just putting the final touches on the parish profile that will be used to tell the story of St. Catherine’s to a prospective new rector. Many people have spent long hours searching for words that will resurrect the life of this parish, bring our hopes and dreams alive, fill the pages with truth and grace and speak clearly and invitingly to the one who will come lead us forward.
We could have gone to a file and plucked standard words. We could have been satisfied with ordinary words. But we have imagined lively words and chosen carefully, and in our words is our life.
As it happens, I possess the Oxford English Dictionary – second edition, all twenty volumes! Many of Esme’s words finally made their way into the second edition. Better late than never, and the Dictionary is being continuously amended. “Words are our tools of resurrection.” I will remember those words and learn to use the tools better as long as the words endure. When I was a child, we sang robustly:
Sing them over again to me, wonderful words of life.
Tools of resurrection, words of life. What a treasure we have.
With joy in the words of new life,
Allen W. Farabee, Interim RectorPosted in Newsletter
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