Last Sunday St John’s hosted the civic service. This is an annual service which moves about from church to church when the Chairman of our District Council comes to church along with other council members and local dignitaries. They make a public promise to serve the local community to the best of their ability and with God’s help. Councillor Beverley Connolly, Chairman of Tandridge District Council, chose the following readings for the service:
I decided to preach mainly on the first of the three readings. Here’s what I said for the occasion, and I began with a short passage from Lews Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass.
“There are three hundred and sixty-four days when you might get un-birthday presents,” said Humpty Dumpty, “and only one for birthday presents, you know. There’s glory for you!”
“I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory,’“ Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t – till I tell you. I meant ‘there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!’”
“But ‘glory’ doesn’t mean ‘a nice knock-down argument,’” Alice said.
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
Anyone involved in politics will know the importance of clarity, the need to choose words carefully so that your meaning is conveyed clearly. It’s no good being like Humpty Dumpty and being clear what you yourself mean, if you then have to go on and explain to those on the receiving end what you actually meant. We all know how easily newspapers can report, for example, something a government minister has said – only for a few days later for a spokesman to say, “That’s not actually what they said, what they really meant was … !“ Continue reading