Yesterday, October 16, was Dictionary Day. Giving a dictionary to a college-bound high school graduate was once my go-to graduation gift. With all kinds of online dictionaries available these days, even the Oxford English Dictionary (!), I’ve had to come up with a new idea.
But Dictionary Day gives us a chance to define some of the vocabulary unique to Women of the ELCA (WELCA), with the hope that all our readers will know what we’re talking about when we use these words.
Let’s start with circle. Constitutional buffs already know this truth: the term circle is not used in any governing documents of Women of the ELCA. It is, however, is used in lots of congregations! A circle is a group of women who gather for a purpose. In our organization, circles most often are women gathering regularly for Bible study.
Often the circle chooses a name too.
In less inspired arenas, it might be the “Thursday night circle” but in many places a circle is named after a woman in the Bible. Circles are not unique to Lutheran women; other Christian denominations use the term too. Look up the mathematical definition of a circle and you learn that it is a simple closed shape.
[bctt tweet=”Circles are not unique to Lutheran women; other Christian denominations use the term too.” username=”womenoftheelca”]
We never want our WELCA circles to be closed. Practicing hospitality to all girls and women in each congregation is an important aspect of our mission. One other note: younger women routinely tell me that the term circle seems antiquated to them and uninviting. There’s food for thought.
How about WELCA? There was a huge movement 30 years ago to never use the term WELCA when talking or writing about Women of the ELCA. The acronym seemed unintelligible and, again, inhospitable to those not involved.
Some followed that admonition but most everybody I know always called our organization WELCA, including me. WELCA is even one of the very top search terms used by people when they Google our organization. Because of that, when we did our last major renovation to our website in 2012, we began using WELCA more so that our website would show up in the search responses when someone Googles the term WELCA.
What’s my rule of thumb? If I’m writing, I’ll spell out Women of the ELCA (I rarely spell out Women of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America!) the first time I mention our organization. I’ll follow it with this: (“WELCA”) and then I’ll just use WELCA for all further references.
My final offering today is SWO, an acronym for synodical women’s organization. Some people will say or write “synodical women’s organization,” but that can become a mouthful. An acronym can save both time and space.
When some people use “SWO” they actually sound out the initials, S – W – O. Other people sound out the word the initials create, “swo.” No grammar rule applies here, so either is acceptable.
You might care less about how SWO is said but really want to know what it is. The SWO is a regional expression within the organization–with boundaries identical to the synod–that works in partnership with our churchwide organization and congregational units in its territory, supporting the women as they live out our mission and purpose in their communities. For a more detailed answer, look at Article V of the SWO constitution.
Did you know the 16th of October was chosen for Dictionary Day because Noah Webster was born on that day in 1758, and he is considered the “father” of the American dictionary?
Celebrate a word unique to your WELCA setting in the comments below.
Linda Post Bushkofsky is executive director of Women of the ELCA.