InterConnections is an email newsletter that publishes tips and stories about vital congregations for lay leaders and the professional staff who work with them. The following is an excerpt from a recent article.

Things to Consider When Naming a Congregation

According to numbers submitted through February 2011, there are 1,046 congregations within the Unitarian Universalist Association, including the Church of the Larger Fellowship. An analysis shows that the vast majority are named for geographic locations. Most are cities and towns, but there are also congregations named for counties, valleys, mountain peaks, and ocean bays. A few are named for broader regions––Piedmont, prairie, mountain ranges, foothills, seashores, deserts, and forests.

Of those with names not tied to geography, at least two appear to be named for flowers: Columbine UU Church in Colorado and Wildflower Church in Texas. Around 30 are named for people––Starr King, Emerson, Thoreau, May, Throop, Goodloe, Jefferson, Channing, Davies, Murray, Follen, Parker, Servetus, Eliot, Dix, Pullman, Atkinson, Paine, Priestley, Cooper, Reeb, and Brown.

Twenty-two congregations use All Souls as part of their name. The oldest congregation with that name is the Unitarian Church of All Souls in New York City, founded in 1819. With more than 1,000 members, it is one of the UUA’s largest congregations. In the past decade three congregations have taken the All Souls appellation.

A small number of congregations have taken names that evoke more than geography. Some express inclusiveness. There is “Tapestry, a UU Congregation,” in California, and “Mosaic UU Congregation,” in Florida. There are several that use “Open Circle” or “Circle” as part of their name. Several use “People’s Church” and there are a couple that use “Free Church.” Other congregations have adopted religious imagery. There is a “Chalice UU Congregation” in California, plus at least one that includes “Spirit of Life” in its name. There is also an “Epiphany Community Church” (a Christian UU congregation).

Of the total 1,046, 752 congregations use both Unitarian and Universalist as part of their name, 161 just use Unitarian, 58 only use Universalist, and 75 use neither. As for church, 473 use that identifier, compared to 271 fellowships, 142 congregations, and 102 societies.

The newest UU congregations have tended to stick with geography when choosing names. Of the 64 new congregations welcomed into the UUA between 2000 and February 2011, 47 chose names that tie them to a specific city or region. The benefit in that is that including a city’s name instantly tells a seeker where the congregation is located. Another ten or so chose spiritual, inspirational, or aspirational names, such as Harmony UU Church, New Hope Congregation, WellSprings Congregation, UU Peace Fellowship, Open Circle UU Fellowship, Pathways Church, Gaia Community.

Read the whole article here.

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Tandi Rogers

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