The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


March 31, 2008

Church names: Protestants have more leeway

So says a March 31 article by Art Golab in the Chicago Sun-Times, “First ranks 1st as church name: Catholic parishes tend to honor saints, while Protestants have far more leeway.”

The article pointed out something I hadn’t known: Roman Catholic liturgical law limits church names to ones that refer to the Trinity, Christ, the Holy Spirit, angels, Mary or an official Roman Catholic saint.

But if we as Protestants have more leeway, most congregations around here still share pretty similar names. In a six-county area around Chicago, for example, 33 Lutheran congregations have “Grace” in their name. Also popular: First, Trinity, St. Paul, St. Peter, St. James, location/neighborhood names, and Gospel authors' names. My own congregation, Holy Family Lutheran, shares its first two names with several others locally.

Hector Garfias, associate to the bishop, ELCA Metropolitan Chicago Synod, told the Sun-Times that they recommend that Lutherans find a name that “makes the church distinctive in the community and that also conveys the mission of the congregation that is there.” It's an interesting quote, given that among newer congregations, you’re just as likely to find names without “Lutheran.” We have that leeway, too.

To read more about Lutheran congregation names across the ELCA, check out: What´s in a name? 1997 and 2002, ‘Grace’ alone-not enough, ‘Well, first of all it’s ‘Bang’, Nourished, not swamped, The hills are alive.

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