March 7th, 2013


I could use a little help here

Christians speak their own lingo and breaking the code can be difficult for converts and other newbies. For example . . .

Christianity has a special vocabulary. Words and expressions like narthex, chancel, being saved, being convicted (of sin), atonement, immaculate conception, consubstantial, mourner's bench, alb, clergy, laity are not immediately understandable. Most we learn from context, which requires exposure; some we have to outright ask the meaning of.

The special vocabulary of Christianity is no harder to grasp than the special vocabulary of, say, baseball or auto mechanics. Players and fans pick up the lingo as they go. The attempts to make Christianity "seeker-sensitive" by renaming all the coded items is ultimately futile, since it just creates a differently-labeled subculture that still has to be negotiated. Still, we should be aware of the need to translate for those just becoming acculturated to our religion.

With that it mind, would you please share with me the words and expressions that puzzle(d) you. I'm creating a list for my adult Sunday School class this week. We've been studying the history of Christian worship, and I want to present a lesson on the language of worship. What are the biggest whatchamacallits for those navigating a Christian worship service?

I'll also be doing a rapid grammar lesson in archaic English, since the pronoun thou is still frequently encountered in religious poetry, hymnody, prayer, and prose. The inflexion -eth is likewise frequently encountered. And archaic English uses the Subjunctive far more than modern English does, and that can be a mind-bender, too. But I don't need examples of grammar to share, just vocabulary.