What’s a Sanctuary?

This afternoon, I went to a new hair stylist. That means I went somewhere other than my garage for a haircut.

When I first met my stylist, I’ll admit I made some quick, uninformed judgments.

From outward appearance, my new stylist seemed rough around the edges…the kind of rough that makes one think, “I wouldn’t want to cross her or meet her in a dark alley.”

As the haircut proceeded, I discovered she has led a difficult life. However, she is trying hard to make better decisions and do her best to make a decent life for her family. She is a single mother of two young children. She was also extremely funny.

She asked what I do for a living. I told her I am a pastor. That made her laugh. She told me her older sister is a minister and is always telling her she needs to go to church.

She told me she went to church when she was young. But, that particular church was very strict and made her uncomfortable as a teenager.

She tried church when she lived in Atlanta. But, that church spent too much time talking about money.

She said the only church she’d been invited to in Lafayette started too early. I asked her what too early meant. She said “anything before 9:30.”

She indicated that she would like her children to have the “church experience.”

So, I invited her to our church, indicating we have a service at 9:45 and 11. She said, “11am. I could do that!”

She asked where the church is located. I told her it’s on the corner of Veterans and 18th. She seemed unsure of the location. So, I explained that it was just down the street and we have a construction project going on.

She asked me what we’re building. I told her about the new sanctuary.

And, when I said “sanctuary”, she gave me a confused look and asked, “What’s a sanctuary?”

As I explained what a sanctuary is, she said, “oh, the big room where you have meetings.”

The conversation helped remind me that “Christianese” goes beyond the big theological terms. It also includes terms like sanctuary, narthex, chancel, altar, and other terms we assume people understand.

Now, I’m not suggesting we have to do away with the terms. However, explanations are necessary if we plan to continue using the terms. Education is key. You don’t have to call the sanctuary an auditorium or the chancel a stage. However, you might consider explaining the difference.

I’m glad I didn’t cut my own hair in the garage today!


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