Narthex, nave, chausable, purificator, flagon, benevolence; these are words that we use in the church. You may or may not know what they mean. The Church has a lot of words that aren’t used in the wider world, and there are some people who believe that we should get rid of them, as it may put up an unseen barrier between those who are ‘in the know’ and those who are not.
I don’t agree. Language evolves to communicate – not just ideas, but a way of living. Language is a particular community’s way of making meaning. The Christian language does that as well. Barbara Brown Taylor says that “if we drop [these words] from our vocabulary then our language, not to mention our experience, will be diminished.”
Let’s look at the word ‘nave.’ This is the part of the church building where the pews are. We could just use the term sanctuary, but using the term ‘nave’ has a larger, more symbolic meaning. As the Church Dictionary defines it: “‘Nave’ is Latin for ‘ship.’ The body of the church building where the congregation assembles; called "nave" because the church is often symbolized in art as a ship, and the people pulling together in service.” We don’t just sit in the pews and become passive consumers of worship, all together we participate in the liturgy (another church word that means “the work of the people”).
Let’s now look at the word Benevolence. We are exploring this word because it has a practical function for us. There is a line on our Offering Envelopes that is dedicated to Benevolence. I’ve had a few people ask me what that means… and for us, at Augsburg, it has a very particular meaning.
Broadly, the word benevolence means “kindness, charitable, or generous.” This is all true, but it also means being kind and generous to the church. For Augsburg, in our context, putting money in your envelop and marking it ‘Benevolence’ means that you are making a donation to the Synod and National offices of the ELCIC. The Synod and National offices do a lot for us, including, among other things, training for treasurers, council members, workshops on leadership, and writing grant proposals, as well as representing the Canadian Lutheran voice at world assemblies. It is a wonderful and helpful donation to make. Bishop Michael Pryse has sent us a ‘Thank You’ letter for our Benevolence contributions. It further explains where our Benevolence dollars go. You can see it posted on the bulletin board in the narthex.
The ‘work of the people’ doesn’t stop on Sunday morning, it continues into our world at the local and the national level. Our Christian language is beautiful and meaningful and I hope we continue to use it.
Peace and Blessings,
Rev. Nadine Nicholds