Several members of the congregation have asked me about the words for The Doxology printed in the bulletin and note that the words are not correct: “The word God should be Him.” For the majority of us who grew up as Presbyterians we learned The Doxology at a very young age to the tune of Old Hundredth. The primary words of the text are, “Praise God, from whom all blessings flow; Praise Him, all creatures here below; Praise Him above, ye heavenly host; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.” However, if you look in our hymn book #592 you will see this Doxology but at the bottom of the hymn there is a * or God. The * reappears in the hymn text in front of the word Him. Meaning you can substitute the word God for Him. And so in my ordering our worship service I have chosen to use this language.
Why, you ask? It’s because I believe in the importance of intentional language. The language we use often paints a picture of how we understand our relationship with our Lord, our God. The more I engage a scripture the more I realize the importance of understanding all the attributes of God. I’ve shared with the Monday morning group that my understanding that God is not a he or a she. I see God as “it.” But our English language sometimes limits how we convey or even understand our relationship to God. So where appropriate I will often use the term God, this is the sacred name that we ascribe to our Lord, YHWH (Hebrew: ” ,יהוהI am who I am”). God is the great I am.
The planning of worship is a very sacred practice for me and when I am ordering all the parts of the service, I am very conscious of the words and language I choose to us in order to convey the overall themes that are reflected in each weeks scripture. Sometimes there is more masculine language. Sometimes there is feminine language. We often don’t recognize the difference in this because we get these themes mainly in the original Greek and Hebrew, which have masculine and feminine characteristics. Our English language does not. My hope is that when you engage with new ways of understanding God whether it’s through prayers or songs. You are able to understand the fullness of God’s expression to us.
I think it is important to use a variety of language to help us understand our relationship to God. For example, in our hymnbook there are two other doxologies. One of them is to the Old Hundredth tune but the words are different. “Praise God from whom all blessings flow, praise Christ all people here below, praise Holy Spirit ever more, praise triune God whom we adore. Amen.”
In the new Presbyterian hymnal called Glory to God there are several more doxologies with different words. “Praise God from whom all blessings flow, praise God all creatures high and low, hallelujah hallelujah praise God and Jesus fully known, creator word and spirit one, hallelujah hallelujah hallelujah hallelujah hallelujah”.
Another doxology has similar words but can also be sung in Spanish. “praise God to the father, praise God to the sun, praise God to the spirit, praise to the three and one, sing praise sing praise to the Lord on high. Praise to God Almighty praise to the holy one.”
These songs and words are ways for us to express our understanding and relationship with God.
As we continue to grow together in ministry, I hope that you will embrace the vast diversity of language whether through song or word that is being introduced to you. Recognizing that in the beginning you may not agree with the language that has been chosen, I hope that through my choosing of words and song that you may wrestle with what it means for you to truly understand God and the relationship you have with God. As always, I am happy to meet with you at any time to discuss these deep theological issues that we as Christians are challenged to navigate as we walk of life and faith in Jesus Christ.
The use of inclusive language is not exclusive to me. PCUSA adopted the use of inclusive language many years ago. The first action was taken in 1971 by General assembly, and most recently in 2010. And to give you a point of reference from my perspective, I graduated from seminary in 2007 during the height of this push for inclusivity. For example, the Bibles that are in our pews are the New Revised Standard Version. This version of the Bible was written with inclusive language. You may or may not know that when I read scripture, I typically read it out of my Bible which is from the English Standard Version. The reason I choose to use this version is because the translation of the ESV Bible is more realistic to what the actual Greek and Hebrew says. The NRSV Bible was written with inclusive language in mind and there are times where I feel that the editors took liberties to write things inclusively and therefore sometimes distort the meaning or intention of the scripture. Of course, this is my opinion. You should know that with every Presbyterian congregation I’ve served, the NRSV is the Bible of choice. It was the Bible that I was required to use during my time in seminary. It is important for you to know that when I am preparing for Sunday morning, I always read through several versions of each week’s scripture. And there will be times that I will pick other translations to read to you. Again, the goal is to engage with the scripture in a way that helps shape our faith and our relationship to God.
Here is a link to a brochure produced by Rachel Ethnic and Women’s Ministries, Presbyterian Women’s Ministries and adopted by PCUSA. “Well Chosen Words, a guide to understanding and using inclusive language, developed by the Racial Ethnic and Women’s Ministries/PW ministry area in consultation with the Advocacy Committee on Women’s Concerns, cites Galatians 3:27-28 in which Paul asserts, ‘As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ … for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.’ Inclusive language allows all God’s children to be one in Christ Jesus. The guide encourages language choices that proclaim the fullness of God, outlining traditional depictions as well as newer images to describe God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.”
I hope that this information will be helpful for you as together we try understand our relationship with GOD with new perspectives.
Blessings Pastor Elise