Readers write: Church engagement, different definitions, and ancient celebrations

Letters to the editor for the April 1, 2019 weekly magazine.

Vincent West/Reuters
A man dressed as a bear (c.) accompanies bell-wearing dancers known as Joaldunak performing a ritual dance to awaken the coming spring and ward off evil spirits during a carnival celebrations in northern Spain on Jan. 28.

Church engagement

The March 11 cover story, “Pray & wash,” provides helpful insight into the development of nontraditional churches in the United States. The author addresses important topics concerning the role and purpose of Christian churches in the 21st century. The report does not, however, explore an important component of every church: engagement with the Holy Scriptures. The report refers to “Bible-inspired conversation” during a church service in Worcester, Massachusetts, but provides no clear indication as to the role of scriptural study in the new churches.  

I would have appreciated a more comprehensive analysis of the form and content of services in nontraditional churches. Do church services include compelling, innovative sermons that have genuine substance and spiritual depth? Are worshippers attracted by theological content that is more accessible and less rigorous than orthodox Christian teaching? 

Some answers to these questions would have been helpful.  

Alistair Budd

London

Different definitions

Melissa Mohr’s “In a word” column in the March 4 issue tells us that nonce words are words coined for the occasion and that English speakers often have no trouble inferring the meaning of such words because they follow familiar language rules. 

Nonce word is a term I routinely use in my work in patent litigation. Here, the term means almost the opposite: a familiar, generic term that does not have any definite meaning on its own, such as module, mechanism, or device. A person cannot understand the patented invention described by a nonce word unless the inventor adds further explanation, e.g., a “mechanism for turning on a light.” 

Thanks, Ms. Mohr, for giving me a richer sense of nonce words and all kinds of other words each week.

Elizabeth DeRieux

Gladewater, Texas

Ancient celebrations

I enjoyed the Feb. 11 Viewfinder photo showing the celebration of the carnivals with Joaldunak in northern Spain. 

Specifically, this is an ancient Basque celebration in northern Spain. Today, Basques are free there to speak their unique language and celebrate their historical cultural traditions; these were forbidden during the years of Francisco Franco’s rule, which ended in 1975.

Gloria Jaureguy

Prunedale, California

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