Key Terms

Teaching English Language Arts wasn’t just something I did; it’s a core piece of my identity. Prime example: here I am, currently without a classroom, yet I still feel a deep-seated need to create glossaries.

Hey, church lingo can be confusing. I speak from personal experience! I suspect I may be guilty of using some terms and assuming we all just have a common understanding.

In case that’s not true, here’s a primer on a few key terms for this website:

ELCA: “ELCA” is the common abbreviation for Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, the specific branch of Lutheranism to which I belong. The tone of each congregation certainly varies and I’m certainly not an expert on the denomination as a whole. But it is widely considered the most liberal interpretation of Lutheran doctrine and tends to be very service-oriented. My home church is all about the hippie, gluten-free granola crunching.

Lectionary: The ELCA website defines this clearly as “a series of readings appointed for a church’s worship on Sundays and Festivals.” ELCA, along with many other Christian denominations, uses the Revised Common Lectionary. The Revised Common Lectionary continuously rotates through three years’ worth of assigned passages. We refer to these cycles as Year A, Year B, and Year C. I like the idea that, wherever Lutherans (and others) worship together, they’re encountering the same text on the same day. I also like the “checks and balances” concept of a reading structure imposed from higher in the church hierarchy. Finally, I like the continuous rotation. It means that I’ll encounter the same passages repeatedly. I’ll get a chance to deepen my understanding, and to apply familiar Bible verses to new situations in my ever-changing life.

Liturgy: Merriam-Webster’s defines this as “a fixed set of ceremonies, words, etc., that are used during public worship in a religion.” For me, this encompasses the pattern of worship I can expect every Sunday (hymns, children’s service, readings, sermon, Lord’s Prayer, communion, etc). It also includes the patterns of the liturgical year, beginning with Advent and continuing on through the various seasons. In many churches, including mine, there are practices assigned to each season and festival. These range from displaying crèches at Christmas to following the Stations of the Cross during Holy Week, and include some pretty interesting color symbolism for the various seasons and festivals.