According to the Social Security Administration, the name Isabelle has knocked the name Emma of the top of the heap as the most popular girl’s name in the United States while the boy’s name Jacob remains atop the list of most common boy’s name for the eleventh year in a row.  I for one was named after Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis’ not-so-famous older daughter. Jamie Leigh Curtis? No, not her. The other daughter. *shrugs.*  For what it’s worth, other parents apparently liked the name as well as there were four Kellys in my medical school class. While I was pregnant with our first daughter, we quickly crossed that ultrapopular name Emma off the list after we realized that half of the town’s girls under the age of five were named that.

Names define who we are. Were we named after something trendy or given a traditional name. As it is becoming quite obvious that the Little Church on the Edge of the Prairie will most likely be unable to reconcile and be one single congregation ever again, I suppose it is time to start thinking of LCEP as two different congregations: an ELCA congregation and a separate LCMC congregation. The division is too deep to cross. Emotions are high, and it might be good to have a clean break for both sides and move on. I guess it is time to decide what we are going to name ourselves as we move forward.

Before you name a church, you need to make a list of what not to name it.  LCEP1 and LCEP2 are hardly good alternatives. Each new congregation needs its own identity. And in our town of 8500, there are already two St. Mary’s (Catholic and Episcopal, respectively,) two FIRSTS (Methodist and United Church of Christ,) one St. Paul, one Good Shepherd, (WELS and LCMS, respectively) one named after the town itself, (Bapitist) and the eclectic assortment of Bible and Lighthouse (Evangelical Free and Assembly of God.)

And then there are the overused Lutheran names. Nice, tradtional but way overused. In our synod alone, there is a gaggle of Bethels and Bethanies, three Immanuels (but no Emanuels, go figure), and three, maybe four Trinities.

As much as the apostles Paul and Peter were clearly instrumental to the early Christian church, you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a St. Paul or St. Peter Lutheran Church, or if you were my mom growing up in Detroit, she had the honor of attending Sts. Peter and Paul Lutheran Church because two saints were apparently better than one. As wonderful as these names are, if we went with these names, we would be committing our congregation to the generic conformity of the Emmas and Jacobs of today.

But you don’t want to be too trendy. Of course the hip and modern names such as Open Arms Living Truth Beacon in the Storm SONrise Fresh Wind Lutheran Church would definitely have a Twenty-first Century ring to it and, from a marketing standpoint would be fresh and innovative, it is important to remember that the Ariels, Jasmines, and Mileys of today will someday be the very dated Ethels, Myrtles, and Beulahs of tomorrow.
 
So how do you name a church? There are plenty of names out there to pick from. Traditional Lutheran names that announce that we are either Scandenavian or German Lutherans are aplenty. There is a tiny, rural WELS congregation up the road from my house that is known as St. John’s Lutheran Church, but its heritage is quite obvious as the name on the building is St. Johannes Kirche. I doubt that there are still services in German, but it is definitely steeped in the Lutheran tradition.  This side of the globe is home to the St. Olaf’s (as I was raised on the German side of the state, I still have no idea who St. Olaf nor do I appreciate the finer aspects to the holiday meal of fish marinated in Easy Off Lutefisk.)
 
All kidding aside, a name is something that should transcend generations. It is the first thing a vistor would see as he or she contemplates membership. It is soemthing that sets the tone, not only now, but also for years to come. What do you want others to know about your congregation in three or less words? I’m one of those traditionalists (a tradtionalist liberal? Who knew??) My girls have traditional names, and I tend to be drawn to churches with traditional names. Let’s explore some possibilities:
 
Christ: After all, he is the reason that we come together as church. He is the Alpha and the Omega of the very concept of faith.  It’s a very simple name that says it all. Without Christ, there is no church. Period. Other permutations of this would be Christ the King, Redeemer, Immanuel/Emanuel, Prince of Peace, Our Savior.
 
Grace: It’s one of the three pillars of Lutheranism (Grace Alone, Faith Alone, Word Alone for those keeping track at home.) It’s what we seek when we forge a relationship with Christ. And for many of us who supported the CWA decision of 2009, it is something we want offered without caveats. Grace regardless of race, nationality, gender, sexual orientation or socio-economic status is very powerful gift from God. Is this something we want to proudly proclaim?
 
Peace: After months of infighting, this may be the one gift from God that many want. It’s the gift of purchase that comes with Grace. It’s name that tells the community: We don’t want conflict and are one body in Christ.
 
Faith: It’s the glue that holds a church together. Without it, we are just a bunch of strangers gathering together in a building to sing songs and listen to a speech about being good to each other. 
 
Resurrection: It’s the gift that Christ offers no matter how hard life can be. It’s a powerful message and reminder of God’s unwavering love and the sacrifice Christ made to ensure that we are all blessed.
 
All Saints: Maybe this is the closet socialist in me that likes this name, but Martin Luther famously asserted that we are each a sinner and a saint. Each of us has the exact same favored status among God. All Saints isn’t just a nod to Peter, Paul, John, Matthew, Mary Magadelene and the zillion Roman Catholic saint’s I can’t name that came before us. All Saints is umbrella that covers each and everyone of us. We are all on a level playing field with God. Fits quite nicely with the Priesthood of All Believers.
 
A name packs a lot of information in a few short words. An entire mission statement and vision for a congregation should be able to be summed up in its name.
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