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What’s In A Church Name?

“Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What’s Montague? It is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

William Shakespeare’s classic tragedy inevitably concluded that names hold meaning. Despite all of her wishful thinking, Juliet was a Capulet, and her star-crossed lover was Montague. Their names fundamentally informed their identities because their names held deep and significant meaning, identifying their lineage, pedigree, associations, and more. The denial of their names was a denial of their identities, and the denial of their identities led to a tragic end. 

As part of our effort to join the Evangelical Church of America (EFCA), our church will soon assume a new name. It is of paramount importance that we thoughtfully select a name that accurately reflects our true identity as a church. To this end, the elders have commissioned a name change team that includes Tracey Petrozzi, MaryBeth Letourneau, Kathie Miller, Erin Weller, Karen Robbins, Adam Hayes, Rob Tacker, Patsy Tacker, and myself. 

Over the past two months, the team has been considering the etymology of a church name. We have wrestled with the question, what meaning does a common church name convey? We examined several examples and concluded that church names commonly consist of a combination of the following categories. 

  • Theology (Ex. “Trinity Church”)
  • Affiliation/Denomination (Ex. “First Presbyterian Church”)
  • Tradition (Ex. “Heritage Baptist Church”)
  • Architecture (Ex. “Christ’s Tabernacle”)
  • Geography (Ex. “Mountainview Fellowship”)
  • Posture toward the world (Ex. “Open Door Church”) 
  • Metaphor (Ex. “Journey”)

Because our new name will be accompanied by the subtext “An Evangelical Free Church of America,” the team has prioritized the categories as follows. Geography and metaphor were identified as the top two categories, followed closely by theology, with architecture, posture, and tradition in a distant fourth, fifth, and sixth. 

It is the goal of the name change team to make a recommendation that accurately reflects our true identity as a church. With these categories clearly prioritized, we believe that we are on the right track to accomplish this goal. 

Please be in prayer for us as we begin the creative work of crafting a new name. We hope to share more with you in the near future.