by Rev. Robert H. Tucker
July 14, 1997
"What's in a Name?"
The name was an absolutely logical choice, given the year--1957.
The world-wide ecumenical movement was in full swing, and churches
in numerous countries gathered under the name "United Church
of Christ." Then there was the stated desire to be a "uniting"
as well as a "united" church. So logical was the denominational
name-United Church of Christ-that little thought was given to
how this name would be heard in the Southern part of this country.
I live with the unintended consequences. For the immediate
and inevitable response to stating our denominational name is
"Oh, Church of Christ." Then, I again find myself explaining
what I am not. Neither people's patience nor their interest is
sufficient to last beyond the brief denial. As a result, I now
find my response to others a bit more calculated.
When asked of what church I am a minister, I now respond with
"Congregational." I have learned to expect a blank look,
for Congregational is a total unknown. This gives me an opportunity
to quickly and simply say: "The Pilgrims in 1620 were Congregationalists.
They founded Harvard and Yale, were instrumental in abolishing
slavery, and ordained the first woman in this country--a decade
before the Civil War." With those brief items hung on a person's
mental hooks, I then add, "And, denominationally, I belong
to the United Church-followed by a very slight pause and lowering
of voice-of Christ."
Previous unproductive explanations are now avoided. "Congregational"
starts me at point zero rather than at a minus ten as with "United
Church of Christ."
In "Romeo and Juliet," Shakespeare wrote:
What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.
True, whatever name we use, the reality to which the word
points doesn't change. But names really do matter.
--Robert H. Tucker
14 July 1997
- © Robert H. Tucker, 1997.
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