As part of our Lent Worship Booklet, I have created a section with common “churchy” words and definitions because some folks have asked what certain words mean and why we use them. It has been fun to go back into this part of my education and create a document that will (hopefully) illuminate the what and why of these “churchy” terms.
One of the terms I did not include is the word nave. For those of you who like architecture, you will know this refers to the central part of a sanctuary where the congregation sits. The nave sits between the “chancel”, the front part of the sanctuary where (historically) the clergy sit, and the “narthex” where the community leaves the earthly space to enter sacred space.
Did you know that the term nave is from the Latin word navis, meaning ship. Boats were an early Christian metaphor used to symbolize the Church as a whole. The term may also have derived from the vaulting of some sanctuaries which looks like an upside-down ship. (Interesting fact - in many Nordic and Baltic countries, a model ship is commonly found hanging in the nave of a church.)
I have been thinking about the word nave, and its historical meaning, as we enter this this season of implementing the new bylaws and preparing for your shift from Interim to Settled time. As someone who lived on an old wooden boat in my 20’s, the metaphor of marine architecture is an easy place for me to go. However, in our shared journey as a Corp of Discovery these past two years, I will return to a slightly different nautical metaphor on this side of the mountains.
No more canoes!
No more hiking!
We are on the water!
And we have rafts!
If you would indulge me - Can we imagine that we are now getting into those big white-water rafts and heading down the Columbia River? Can you imagine that we have left the canoes on the other side of the mountains, come across what felt like an interminable wilderness, and are now able to paddle to the Pacific with the swift water leading the way? There is something amazing about being on a river and moving with the current, not against it. AND, it requires different skills, a different mindset, to make sure we don’t capsize the raft!
As the Corp of Discovery moved down the Columbia, they encountered BIG water; rapids and waterfalls, narrows and broad sections. We, like the Corp, need to be ready and able to navigate so that we can reach the ocean together. The nave is the physical reminder that we are in this together, with God.
A confession, I’ve never been white water rafting, but I know lots of people who have. I know that no matter how much someone prepares for the rapids to come, the moment they come into view many people have a “Holy Criminy” response, regardless of how many times they have run the river. For some, this is the point! An adrenaline rush that clears the mind and fuels the body for the effort required to make it safely to the other side. For others, it is just scary; a necessary part of the journey down a magnificent river.
Regardless of the internal landscape of any individual on the raft, it is the willingness of the entire crew to do their respective parts to ensure that everyone makes it safely to the other side. Along with willingness, everyone needs the right gear – life vests, helmets, quick-dry clothes, straps for glasses, sunscreen, food and water…
And every raft needs a guide, someone who knows the river, will steer the raft, and make sure the experience is safe and fun. Depending upon how big the water is. there may be a lead paddler, a person with lots of experience to help read the river. The Lead Paddler helps the 6-8 people sharing the ride work together, listening for the guide's instructions, and making sure they follow the safety rules. Everyone paddles and everyone takes care to do their part.
I am thinking about this because we are now in the raft (new bylaws) and some white water is visible ahead (big decisions about the future). The idea of this rafting trip is now a reality and the “what-have-we-gotten-ourselves-into” moment has arrived. As your lead paddler, I am going to offer these safety guidelines, knowing we can get through this together!
1. Trust the Guide (God) – if we do not trust the One navigating then we have a bigger issue. There is a reason I didn’t claim the Guide spot. I am paddling with you and listening to the Spirit, to Jesus, who guides all of us as we take this ride. I just know the river better and can anticipate the rocks and rapids ahead of us.
2. Trust the Other Paddlers – it may not always feel this way, but I know in my bones that we are ALL paddling because we all want to get to smooth water together.
3. Don’t Quit – there will be an impulse to quit, to stand up in the boat, to want to be on the shore. This is a completely normal and logical desire. However, quitting, standing up, or jumping out not only puts you at risk but it endangers everyone else on the raft.
4. Remember, This Will End – Rapids are not a constant on any river. Serious rapids are actually a small percentage of any waterway with even fewer as the summer and fall lowers water levels.
The Corp of Discover encountered over a dozen major and minor rapids and waterfalls on the Columbia between the Snake River and the Pacific Ocean. Thankfully we will not face that many challenges in this last season of shared Interim Ministry. And while we WILL face a waterfall or two, practicing paddling together through some of the small rapids will prepare us to face BIG Water and get us safely to the other side together.
We can use these words of David in Psalm 25:8-11 to give us strength.
The GUIDE is good and does the right thing;
teaching paddlers which way they should go.
The GUIDE rows the weak to justice,
teaching them the way.
All the GUIDE'S paths are loving and faithful
for those who keep the instructions and laws.
Please, for the sake of your good name, My GUIDE,
forgive my distrust and fears, which are many!
The next time you come into the building, take a minute to sit in the sanctuary and look up at the ceiling. Remember that we are all in the boat, held in the loving embrace of our GUIDE, who is and was, and evermore will be.
I am so honored to be in this boat with you all!