Trendy Church Names

A church I know has begun the process of changing its name. Gone is the old denominational label and place-name combo. In comes the fashionable yet spiritual title: Hope Church. Naming churches is an interesting business, and for which definite trends can be identified.

From medieval times it became popular to name a church after a saint, perhaps one local to the area, or one the patron admired. Near our chapel are churches dedicated to Saints Mary the Virgin, Leonard and Bartholomew. It was thought that the adoration of such a saint would afford the church his or her protection and blessing.

In the nineteenth century, nonconformist chapels in particular assumed more biblical names: Zion Chapel, Salem Chapel, Ebenezer Chapel, Bethel Chapel. These names often had spiritual significance in scripture, offering aspirational identity to the worshippers. 

From the 1900s-1950s, churches were often called Missions or gospel halls, such as those at Nelson and Barnoldswick. The old denominations were imbibing at the fountains of liberalism and formality, and their zeal for the gospel had begun to wane. These new, breakaway churches existed for mission, to souls ignored by the main churches.

In the 1970s and 80s, charismatic churches liked to call themselves ‘community churches’ and ‘Christian fellowships’. Their names savoured the freedom and independence they enjoyed from the old-fashioned denominations from which their members had been drawn.  

In the 90s and 2000s, churches took on aspirational names like Living Hope, Deeper Christian Life, King’s Church and Father’s House. Black congregations took on slightly more long-winded aspiration such as “Faith Heritage International Christian Centre”.

Churches in the 2010s took on shorter, snappier names. Slightly less spiritual than the former fashions, they were much more conducive to web URLs. For example, “Destiny” at Wakefield, “Monday@7” and “!Audacious Church” at Manchester, which stretches somewhat the rules of punctuation. 

Shane Morris, surveying the US scene, examined the trends in church names, putting them into the following categories (NB they are all real churches):

 

Random Words:

“Red Door,” “The Branch,” “The Harbor,” “The House,” “The Journey,” “The Orchard,” “The Painted Door,” and “The River.”

Cheap Romance Novels:

“Burning Hearts,” “Door of Hope,” “Epiphany Station,” “Liberating Spirit,” “Mercy Road,” “New Horizons,” “Passion,” “Second Chance Church,” “Shepherd of the Prairie,” “The Nest of Love,” “The Refuge,” and “Word Aflame.”

Gated Communities:

"Bayside,” “Centerpoint,” “CrossPoint,” “Grace Pointe” (with an “e”—fancy!), “Highpoint,” “LifePoint,” “Crossbridge,” “Crossings,” “Crossroads,” “The Crossing,” “Prairie Heights,” and “The Bridge.”

Night Clubs:

“180 Church,” “Dwell,” “Elevate,” “Epic,” “Flow Church,” “Discovery,” “Ignite,” “Lighthouse,” “Oasis,” “Submerge,” “The Alley,” “The Encounter,” “The Experience,” “The Pursuit,” “The Spot,” “The Verge,” and my favourite, “Vida Explosive.”

Gyms:

“Champion Life Church,” “Action Church,” “Church on the Move,” “Empowerment Center,” “No Limits Fellowship,” “Potential Church,” “The Foundry,” and “VLife Church” (which actually sounds more like a protein shake).

Internet Start-ups:

“Catalyst Church,” “Church Eleven32,” “Engage,” “Gateway,” “Genesis,” “Legacy,” “Mosaic Church,” “MyChurch,” “Netcast,” “ONE Church,” “Perimeter,” “Quest Church,” “ReThink Life Church,” and “Watermark.“ 

Spas:

"Renovate,” “Radiant,” “Coolwater,” “H20 Church,” “Sandals,” “Fresh Life,” “The Healing Place,” or “Wellspring.”

Cults (this time, all in Manchester):

“Temple of Shalom Christian Church”, “The Mother of God of Zyrovic”, “Shaws Temple A M E Zion Church”, and “The Sanctuary of the Light Within”. I propose that these names sound dodgy; for the churches themselves I cannot vouch one way or another.

 

I’ll be honest. I think many of the names above are daft or creepy. Changing a church’s name is a risky business. Names have sometimes played long-term roles in communities and their ‘brand’ receives affection or at least familiarity from locals. We must also guard against silly fashions and trying to keep up with the trendy Christians in the next town. Salem Chapel must have sounded cutting edge in 1816, and it may sound pretty old-fashioned in 2017. But rest assured, its name won’t be changing on my watch.