Y’all is the most inclusive pronoun

Published 5:52 pm Wednesday, November 23, 2022

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Recently, I read today a fascinating news article written about “Y’all: The Most Inclusive of all Pronouns”. Maud Newton smiled to remember that when her mom joked that she was becoming a Yankee, her father scolded her and “taught me Dixieland”. Ms. Newton writes, “My father mostly ignored the changes in my speech, but one thing I said that made him clench with fury: ‘you guys’. The term was ‘y’all’ he said, tightening his jaw. Little girls were not guys!” “My father spanked me once when he overheard me saying ‘you guys’ to a couple of playmates, both girls. The belt didn’t make me like ‘y’all’ any better!”

In her mid-20s, Ms. Newton lived in Tallahassee – her apartment 17 miles from the Georgia border. And there “I began to enjoy ‘y’all’, its warmth and inclusivity, the way everyone was gathered under its umbrella. I had to admit: it didn’t feel sexist, racist or classist. It felt friendly and – most of the time – genuine.”

Ms. Newton says that ‘y’all’ “has come north in the Great Migration, alongside collards and cornbread. Now it has spread to states above the Mason-Dixon line and as far as Australia, it represents the best of American vernacular.”

The first time I dared to use ‘y’all’ publicly was at a wedding in Newport, Rhode Island. The bride was from the deep south and I loved to hear her talk. At the wedding, when I preached the homily, I mentioned the warmth, the inclusivity, the welcome of ‘y’all’ and I prayed that these would ever be marks of their lives together.

I am still rather hesitant to use the term, I really do not want to be some interloper from back east (well, even further back east to Britain). But though I use the term rarely I indeed consider it “the most inclusive of pronouns”.

At the heart of God’s ministry towards us is a ministry of inclusivity, of welcome to all even those deemed as outcasts, unmentionables, those all too easily ignored and forgotten. I am so proud that nearly every Episcopal Church sign carry these divine words “We Welcome You”.

In Matthew 13:24–43, the parable relates how the servants were too eager to pull up weeds; they are warned that in so doing they would root out the wheat as well and were told to let both grow together until the harvest. Patience goes hand in hand well with welcome!

And the Lord’s inclusive ministry extends to the way salvation works in our lives. The word salvation comes from a root word meaning whole and complete, from which we derive our word for holiness.

The Lord’s desire is that we be blessed, made whole, healed in body and mind and spirit; this is indeed a total ministry applied to y’all and to every part of y’all.

Friends, the ministry of Jesus is often summed up as “teach, preach and heal”. My prayer is that we will continue His ministry in every way possible, extending our Sunday prayers as a church to our Tuesday prayers as a church. The service begins at 5:30 p.m. and usually last about 30 to 40 minutes. You are invited to bring yourself and others to the Lord for healing; I offer prayer with laying-on-of-hands and anointing with oil for those who wish.

And to this service (as others) y’all are welcome – friends, neighbors, relatives, work colleagues. Bring these souls to church in person or in name and we will pray for them in the Name of the Lord.

Exodus 15:26 “The Lord is my Healer”, praise the Lord. Amen

Alan Neale is the Rector at Zion Episcopal Church in Washington.