Anglicans Online banner More about the gryphon
Independent On the web since 1994 More than 250,000 readers More than 32,000 links Updated every Sunday
Will you help support
Anglicans Online?

The Paypal logotype

Noted This Week
Sites new to AO

News Centre
News archive

News flash: a summary of the top headlines
Find us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us by email
Be notified each week

Start here
Anglicans believe...
The Prayer Book
The Bible

Read letters to AO
Write to us

Resources A to Z

World Anglicanism
Anglican Communion
In full communion
Not in the Communion

Dioceses and Parishes
Hong Kong
New Zealand

South Africa
Sri Lanka

Vacancies Centre
List a vacancy
Check openings worldwide

Add a site or link to AO
Add a site to AO
Link to AO

About Anglicans Online
Back issues
About our logo
Our search engine


Hallo again to all.

Were we motivational speakers, we would doubtless begin this letter with an ill-placed quotation from some authority, cut loose from the moorings of 'context' and 'actual meaning'.* We regard the whole genre, alongside its close compatriots of sales and (occasionally) human resources jargon, with a mix of horror and horrified fascination. The ability to endue the banal phrase with the dignity of philosophy is, in its own way, most impressive.Success, go get it

We received a list of 'motivational reminders' for the new year that were supposed to help us have 'the best year yet'. We also wonder if the prophet Job received something similar just before the outset of his story. 'Always look for the best in any situation' indeed! The list did prompt us to think of a confluence in our life of all these founts of dire prose. A committee on which we sit at our secular workplace has taken to an (un-)healthy dose of corporate jargon. It is, we suspect, only a matter of time before we are asked to 'ideate' a program rather than 'think about' it.

This all runs contrary to the great authorities of English prose. Per Strunk and White's famous dictum:

Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that he make every word tell.†

We are not Hemingway, nor is our writing grand. But we try to adhere to these simple best usages. The same goes for our speaking. Some jargon is good—a precise word for a precise thing. We like that we are part of a tradition where 'narthex' is used without shame. But beyond the stylistic, we also find most motivational speakers and corporate positivity theologically challenged. In neither Testament does God promise a life without problems. Neither Job, nor the blind man that Jesus heals, did anything wrong, yet they had suffered. Perhaps both did so with a higher purpose, but Christ at no point tells them to 'look on the bright side of life'. Monty Python was onto something with the absurdity of the choral number using that signature phrase.

This has caused us to wonder, then, how we motivate our parishes to stretch and grow with any sort of authenticity. At a recent vestry/PCC retreat, we listened to an excellent example of this. As we continue to process its hallmarks, we return to the idea that it is rooted in the figure of Jesus and the simple friendship with which he invited in the disciples. Despite at times almost promising that if we had a desire for mission God would provide, the presenter managed to avoid any Joel Osteen moments. We left with some concrete goals and, indeed, felt genuinely motivated to pursue them. It was more sobering than a 'conversion on the mountain' moment. No transfigurations happened.

We suspect that this core of authenticity made the difference. No one said 'if you build it, they will come'—quite the opposite! So, we were forced to revise our opinion on 'church growth' marketing, at least in this particular instance. We find that gratifying because it promises that we can actually grow the church in anno Domini 2018. However, at this point in our letter, we heed the words of Strunk and White and omit further needless words.

See you next week.

Our Signatures


All of us at Anglicans Online

11 February 2018

*Or were this a secondary school writing exercise, we might also use the phrase 'since the dawn of history'.
†Strunk and White, The Elements of Style (1918).

A thin blue line
This web site is independent. It is not official in any way. Our editorial staff is private and unaffiliated. Please contact about information on this page. ©2018 Society of Archbishop Justus
. Please address all spam to