During seminary I served two small churches in the Chicago area. Following my time with these congregations, the churches merged with another church in the area. The three churches then sold their respective buildings and built a brand new structure to house the new arrangement. Along the way a new name was adopted, Trinity United Methodist Church. The name “Trinity” brought out the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as well as the coming together of three congregations.
Moving to Iowa, I served congregations in Epworth and Solon over a sixteen-year period. Each of these churches took on the name of the town. For example, I served Epworth United Methodist Church in Epworth, Iowa. This appears to be common practice in many rural communities.
Arriving in Independence in 2010, I began serving First United Methodist Church. I don’t know actual statistics on these kinds of matters, but a colleague once told me that one-fourth of all United Methodist congregations are named “First.” This is probably the case in other denominations.
Last summer, I was blessed to begin serving at Lovely Lane. As many of you know, our name acknowledges the Lovely Lane Chapel in Baltimore, Maryland. The original Lovely Lane Chapel, located on Lovely Lane, was the scene of the December 1784 Christmas Conference, in which the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States was founded.
It really is fascinating to look at the story behind the names of local congregations. Using the Yahoo! Local Search API, some interesting discoveries emerge. The search shows the most common words in church names, excluding denominations, include “New,” “Christ,” and “Community.” The most common full names are “First Baptist Church” at 5,115 churches and “Church of Christ” at 2,854 churches.
The search also reveals that saints and mountains bring out names for congregations. The word “St.” (Saint) is customary in mainstream denominations such as Catholic, Episcopalian, and Lutheran. The most popular saint names are “John,” “Paul,” “Mary,” and “Peter.” Mountains also inspire, too. “Mt. Zion,” “Mt. Olive,” and “Mt. Calvary” top this list. I might even add that 2/3 of churches have the word “church.” Other nouns include center, fellowship, and chapel.
Now my point in all this is that a “name” is a good thing. Every church has a name and every church has a story. We need to be proud of our local congregation as we proclaim the Gospel. Let’s share the Lovely Lane story with others. Let’s also keep an open mind as we hear others share their stories, too. It’s great to be in ministry together!
A Thousand Blessings! Scott