So, Saturday afternoon I began work with LSTC's Youth In Mission office as a seminarian mentor for the Serving Christ in the World program. (I'll give you a hint, that last sentence helps you understand 2 of the words in the title...)
As I was going through orientation for the program we ran across multiple acronyms for various organizations, names, offices, and the like. Some were new to me and some were not. To me it was interesting to step back and take a look at what was going on when we were using all of these acronyms. I realized that while we all knew what they meant (or learned very quickly) they were meant to be used because we were part of the club. We used the acronyms because we were the in crowd, the ones who did not have to decipher what they meant.
A few years back at an orientation for the ELCA National Youth Gathering in New Orleans we were told how to respond when someone not affiliated with the Gathering asked what we were a part of: "We're here with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America as part of the National Youth Gathering" and then we could talk about what we were doing, how we felt about their great city, and learn what a portion of their story was. It was made pretty clear to us that we were not to use the term ELCA when having these conversations. Some people thought it was kind of militant, and controlling, but I think it was a great gift both for the people we spoke to, and to ourselves.
It was a gift for those we interacted with because they did not have to be part of the inside group to understand who we were or what we were doing. For these people, having a name to attach to something and to have the appropriate language for what they were talking about was necessary for communication to happen.
I also see it as a gift for us talking about the Gathering. So often we get caught up in our acronyms that maybe...just maybe we forget what we are actually talking about. How many times in a day do I rattle off LSTC or ELCA or LoL(Lord of Life, my home congregation) or now SCITW, YIM or CCIDD (Cuernavaca Center for Intercultural Dialogue on Development)? Too many, I think. I think when we use this "club language" we forget what we are actually talking about. I think I'm going to challenge myself to start saying Evangelical Lutheran Church in America so that I help other people understand, but also so that I too fully understand that I belong to a Christian Church in America that is Lutheran and centered on proclaiming the Good News of Christ to all people.