Friday, October 10, 2008
Chapels vs. churches
Some churches don't like calling their buildings "churches."
Notably, the "Churches of Christ" which crankily announces on their signs that "the church of Christ meets here."
It's a very American idea: the church is not a church. Only the people are the church.
Some of our brethren seek to circumvent this by calling their meeting place a "chapel." Such as this congregation.
Which only begs the question: the English "chapel" is from Middle English, borrowed from Old French and medieval Latin. In those languages, it meant basically what we mean when we say "church."
Emphasizing the people of God as the church is not a bad thing. But a church building is indeed the House of God. Here Christ has promised to be in our midst, and here we receive His Body and Blood. The Patriarch, St. Jacob reminds us of this (Gen. 28.10-22) when he spoke of the place where God appeared to him in a dream: "How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven."
We set aside space to be the house of God. That space has and retains a holiness. Even when the people of God are temporarily gone.