Thanks to the Very Rev Dr Anthony J. Carr, whose letter in today’s Times informs us how the word church was removed from the first ever translation of the New Testament into English in 1526. Congregation was preferred as an accurate translation of the Greek ekklesia.
If it seems odd today that the church should get rid of church, the later Jacobean church thought so too. The King James Bible compilers re-established the word in their Bible, taking the opportunity at the same time to replace love. They preferred charity, perhaps fearing loss of revenue.
The British Library reissued the 1526 Bible as part of its millennium project, so you can now easily get hold of some authentic sixteenth century English.