Salem (say’luhm) is Hebrew for peace (similar roots to the more familiar Hebrew word “shalom”, Hebrew being the orginal language of the Old Testament). The Hebrew bible mentions a place called Salem in Genesis 14:8 with the king of Salem being Melchizedek (prounounced mel-kiz’uh-dek), who was the priest of God Most High. Salem geographically also can refer to the holy city of Jerusalem or city of peace.
Salem is mentioned with Zion (Jersualem) in Psalm 76 as the dwelling place of God. Psalm 76:1-3 reads:
In Judah God is known, his name is great in Israel.His abode has been established in Salem, his dwelling place in Zion.There he broke the flashing arrows, the shield, the sword, and the weapons of war.
Mechizedek and Salem are also mentioned in the New Testament in the Letter to the Hebrews 7:2:
This “King Melchizedek of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham as he was returning from defeating the kings and blessed him”; and to him Abraham apportioned “one-tenth of everything.” His name, in the first place, means “king of righteousness”; next he is also king of Salem, that is, “king of peace.”
Salem United Church of Christ (earlier The Reformed Church of Salem) began using the name “Salem” sometime in the late 1800’s. Today it is fitting that this congregation has the word Salem in its name as it strives to uphold the virtue of “peace” within its people and advocate for a peaceful world for all of God’s children and creation through its ministry and beliefs.