One great thing about the South is that southerners maintain the second person plural personal pronoun. Before you stop reading, hear me out: Since “thee” fell into disuse, most English speakers do not have a way to express the second person plural. Not so the South. The South has “y’all.”
Why spill ink on pronouns? For one, the South’s favorite colloquialism is more than charming, “y’all” expresses and shapes the culture. In a fracturing America, the South still believes “we are in this together, y’all!” That idea: “we are all in it together” makes “y’all” important. Without a second person plural we are left with a language that only expresses “I, me, and mine.” Isn’t it ironic that we kept those pronouns and dropped the selfless one? This loss of the second person plural pronoun exposes an issue hard-wired into us. It crops up whenever I want to make sure something works the way I want it to. And it pops up again when something works for me so I stop worrying about whether it works for you. It is insidious, this I, me, mine stuff. It’s why we need “y’all.” I need “y’all”, “y’all” need me, and we all need each other.
The second person plural is especially important if you are a Bible reader. Much of the New Testament is addressed, not to “you” but to “y’all.” Those promises the tv preachers tell us to name and claim to get our blessing? Most of those are not addressed to you or to me. They are addressed to “y’all” – to the community, to the family of God.
In the church especially we have a call to keep our eyes open to the other, to ask; “who is not here?” What part of the family is missing? Compare your Sunday attendance to the demographics in the 3-mile neighborhood around your church. Do they line up?
-Have a college near you? Are college students in church?
-Does the percentage of young families in church equal your demographics? (Often, even in areas with retirement communities, the number of 35-54 year olds and the birth-18 year olds they are raising equal 40-50% of the population. How is your church doing?
The church needs to address each of these. In the “parish” mindset, a parish exists for ALL who live within its’ boundaries.
In the South when you want to make sure everyone knows you are talking to them, we use the uber-plural, “all y’all.” The church is for “all y’all.” Together we can make sure it works for all, y’all!
Grace and Peace,