Monday, 3 December 2012

How the Locals Talk

Ever since I moved to Perth I've attended the same church. It's similar to some churches we've been to before but it has some characteristics which distinguish it. One that especially pings on my radar is the language. Some of it is uncommon in other churches, but isn't quite unique to this one. I guess it's fair to say that it's prominent here especially when compared to where we were but not so prominent compared to elsewhere.

I guess it's just really obvious to me since it isn't language that I use in everyday conversation in the same way.

I've started a list of the most notable and made some observations about how they're used. This isn't a criticism or an attack, just observations.

Presence. This has some variation in meaning depending on the speaker. Typically it's used in the sense of the presence of God which arrives at a location (c.f., Ezekiel 1, Acts 2 and so on). Most usage connotes the view that God is not present until he's invited. I suspect that no one would openly support that hypothesis despite the implication. Of course, presence only makes sense if there is also a...

Place. It's a kind of catch-all, covering the church auditorium, someone's house, or wherever. The interesting part of this word is that it always precedes the invitation of a presence (see above). A place is only ever a place which is about to become a sacred place. It's used in prayers which invoke the presence of God (for example) "right across this place."

House. Perhaps derived from the Israelite understanding of the temple, in this church it's analogous to "parish congregation" from Anglican or Catholic structure (also words I don't use on a regular basis). The house is this congregation of people, in particular but not exclusively as the people who are assembled in the church building. The notion is somewhat foreign to the New Testament which uses different language to describe gatherings and communities of believers. House is, however, consistent with the idea of the worship service as a gathering at a celestial throne room (c.f., the architecture of the tabernacle). The believers gather in the house and are part of the house.

Floodgates. The full phrase is typically "floodgates of heaven" and most often appears in songs or in prayers asking for the spirit to descend upon the place. It's not a biblical metaphor but a contemporary metaphor. In the biblical texts a flood is always an instrument of destruction, never an instrument of blessing. There is an exception in Ecclesiasticus and possibly in Psalm 93 (although the glory of Yahweh is often found in his judgement and destructive power). Language isn't static, however, so it's not worth digging too deeply into the subtext. I just hope no one is singing along expecting a biblical flood to arrive soon.

I hope to find a few more. These are certainly the most obvious examples and give me a little insight into this church and its wider movement.

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