Sometimes, words can cause harm. Even words that are otherwise beautiful and meaningful can cause harm in some circumstances. I recently had a fascinating experience with this while working with a couple in pre-marital counseling. We were going through the marriage service and it became clear that one of the two of them was very uncomfortable. It turns out that he has a painful history with the church even though he lives a very spiritual life. So, I suggested that we attempt to rewrite the service to replace triggering words.
As we read the service, the words that seemed to be most difficult for him were: God, Lord, and church. Each of these words points to a deeper truth and a powerful mystery. When Moses encountered God at the burning bush, he asked for God’s name and God replied, “Tell them that I Am has sent you.” God is a word we use to speak of a deeper truth, the truth that we are all connected in a mysterious and powerful way and that connection is experienced through love.
As we reworked the service, we used words like Sacred Spirit, Eternal Spirit, and Giver of Life instead of simply saying God or Lord. In place of the word church we used the somewhat awkward but quite beautiful phrase, “the mystery of the connection between all people that is experienced through love.” What we ended up with is quite beautiful, and I am convinced, every bit as true to our Trinitarian faith.
Perhaps the most fun change was to replace, “The Lord be with you,” with the alternative bidding, “The Sacred Spirit dwells in you,” to which the people respond, “And also in you.” I look forward to doing this wedding service with these words and I am grateful for the opportunity to consider the deeper meaning of the beautiful and traditional words we use in our worship each week.
Yours in Christ,