Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Pentecost and the One-Sunday Wordle

A student at St. Francis House recently called out the limited benefit of my Wordle kick. He reminded me that Wordle works best with lots - as in thousands - of words. That's when the math kicks in. So he likes the One Year Wordle, for example, but cringes to remember the time I used Wordle in a Board meeting to reflect back the input of nine members. Singular sermons, he says, fall somewhere in between, though he's inclined to be charitable.

This student is right, of course. There are times Wordle is a sifting tool to help us access what we could not otherwise see or access and other times in which it is simply a colorful mirror. His observations, though - and particularly his appreciation of the One Year Wordle - left me wondering about other multi-sermon word cloud projects that might be fruitful.


Pentecost is perfect, right? I mean, the whole idea is many tongues made things clear.

So I pilfered four sermons (three from Madison colleagues, plus my own) from my Facebook feed and let Wordle do the rest. Four sermons preached within six miles and a couple hours of each other. And the product, if not surprising, is rich and full in a way that leaves me grateful for the Communion we share, as if the task of preachers is both (as Lauren Winner recently suggested) to "love the scriptures in public" and to sing the Word in harmonic parts across the world. The richness of the resulting word cloud likewise reminds me of the incompleteness of any individual church's ministry not properly located within the context of this Communion. Thus Jo Wells' encouragement to me to always be imagining and re-imagining my local church's regional, national, and international identity and relationships. And though the word cloud was all-Episcopalian, it can't help but whet an ecumenical appetite among its readers. The denominational/congregational parts we sing are wonderfully distinctive, peculiar, and one of a kind. But/and we were made to sing these unique parts together.

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