What’s in a Name – Location, Association, and Description

I hope everyone is interested in the outcome of our Name Change discussion and the vote for a name change at our annual meeting on May 21st. I’m not locked into a particular outcome but will be happy with whatever the majority chooses.

I looked up the names of all Unitarian and Unitarian/Universalist groups in Washington State. There are thirty different names. Click On:

Names of Unitarian and Unitarian/Universalist Groups in Washington

Eleven of these groups have names that begin with a specific location such as “Vashon Island Unitarian Fellowship”, fourteen have no location or general locations such as Cedars, Salt Water, East Shore, Cascade, North Lake, Evergreen, Olympic, University, Westside, and Inland Northwest, and five end with the location such as “UU Church of Yakima”.

It seems fairly common to begin our name with the location.

Location – Vashon Island or Vashon Maury Island?

Our gathering location has always been on Vashon Island – never on Maury Island. For people looking for a progressive religious organization, they might find it easier if they know that it’s located on Vashon Island. Hence, Vashon Island seems more descriptive to me than Vashon Maury Island.

Association – Unitarian or Unitarian Universalist?

From the website above, there are four groups with only “Unitarian” and twenty-six with “Unitarian Universalist” in their names. The trend seems clear. We probably want to use “Unitarian Universalist” which emphasizes our strong connection with the Unitarian Universalist Association. Now we could have “Vashon Island Unitarian Universalist Fellowship”.

But what about the word “Fellowship”? Again, from the website: Eleven use “Church”, ten use “Fellowship”, six use “Congregation”, and three use “Community”.

We may not fit the mold here. “Church” can be alienating to newcomers, who have had bad experiences at Christian Churches, and “Fellowship” may turn-off people who think it is sexist. This leaves “Congregation”, “Community”, or something else. Maybe even “Welcoming Community” or ”Beloved Community”.

I’m down to four that I like — You may like something different.

  • Vashon Island Unitarian Universalist Congregation,
  • Vashon Island Unitarian Universalist Community,
  • Vashon Island Unitarian Universalist Welcoming Community, or
  • Vashon Island Unitarian Universalist Beloved Community.

I hope we have a lively and fruitful discussion after our Sunday Service on April 16th following Bruce Haulman’s Sermon on “What’s In a Name?”.

Melvin Mackey
(Member of the Name Change Task Force)