I mock protested, erupting in laughter as I told my church leadership that I, for one, am completely against name changes. For those of you who might not know, I legally changed my own name in 2007.
A lot of people don't understand this kind of thing. Why can't you just make a new reputation for your old name instead of selling it out to something new? If you don't like who you are, who people perceive you to be, as things are then isn't it incumbent upon you to do something different and change it?
Yes and no.
For the thirteen years that I've been there, my church has boasted the moniker: Franklin Church of Christ. The Church of Christ label means: no instruments, women are silent, ultra-conservative, kinda-legalistic. That's the impression people have of the Church of Christ. And that's what we were...thirteen years ago. And there are still people looking for that sort of thing, and God love them, but they won't find it inside our walls any more. We haven't thrown out our whole history, but we have transformed into this community of believers that isn't so stuffed-shirt about our conservative doctrine any more. We're more about love, and I think that's a good thing. That's what Christ told us to be about - loving one another, not getting everything "right."
The truth is that for the past several years, whenever anyone has asked what church I go to, I have either omitted the name altogether and just said, "You know that church on the highway, just north of the blue building and south of that housing edition? That one" or I have mumbled, as quickly as possible, "Franklin Church of Christ...but we're not really like that." Because I know what people think when you say Church of Christ, and in fairness to those looking for such a place and in honor of those of us who know we aren't such a place, it seemed pertinent to say we are, but we aren't. Just..you know.
We set aside two weeks in May to sermon about the name change, about reasons for pursuing such a drastic measure. We had to answer the questions we knew were coming in the congregation, and the leadership did a fantastic job. As I listened to my preacher, I was nodding my head. These were the same reasons that after many years of internal debate, I had changed my own name. I won't bullet-point this for you. I'm going to simplify it.
Names say a lot. In Bible times, your name was an indication of something about you. Sarah laughed, and her son was named, "He laughs." Emmanuel means "God with us." Abram's name was changed to Abraham, meaning "Father of many." Jacob's name was changed to Israel, meaning "Struggles with God." (Fitting, huh, for the nation that was to come?) Names have meaning. Aidan...means "Little fire." Your name says something about you, or it sets you up for something. It is defining in a way that is perfectly unique, even when you share a name with several thousands of others.
In the case of changing a name, it changes your story. That's why, I think, a person or a church does it. Most women change their names when they get married. It signifies the beginning of a new narrative, the family narrative they now get to tell. It frees them from having to tell their old family story and invites them into the new one they are building. The name Aidan frees me from having to keep telling the story of who I was, fighting against who I was, constantly trying to prove that I was not who I was. Instead, I am invited to tell the story of a little fire, the woman I am becoming. The one I was created to be. In the same way, by changing our name, my church no longer has to continually answer to the story of Franklin Church of Christ. We don't have to defend ourselves to a world with a preconceived idea, nor do we have to defend ourselves to a Church of Christ heritage that we have retained only pieces of as we have grown to meet our community. Instead, we are invited to tell our story, the one we are building around how God is moving in this place in this time in these people. It is a defining moment.
And I'm sad to say that as creative, as deeply spiritual, as completely involved as I am in so much of everything, I did not come up with one good, one usable new name for my church. I had a few partial ideas. I liked the idea of a Seed-related something, like the faith of the mustard seed or it would give this impression of a good place to grow. I see that in us. I liked the idea of a Pasture-related something, since we have so much open field around us and I think we're a good place to move "past your" whatever. I had some bad ideas, which I've posted around Facebook. Shear Joy Shepherd's Flock. Christ Church, New Zealot. A few others. Someone in my congregation actually (apparently) suggested Love Shack. But I digress. I was disappointed that I didn't have any better ideas, but let's be honest - at this point in my journey, I'd probably have been prideful had I come up with anything we eventually used. I mean, yeah. So it's really for the best.
All that to say this: I found out with the rest of my family yesterday what new story we get to be telling, and I am excited. I am thankful, as I think so many of us are, to my Church of Christ heritage. There are things I know and lessons I've learned from being CoC that I will never forget, indeed that have shaped the very fabric of my Christian walk. But I am excited about who we are today and who we can be tomorrow, too. (And I'm really glad we ditched that whole "women can't do anything" motif because I am honored to be able to share with my church in dynamic, awesome ways.)
The thing is that when you change your name, whether you're a person or a church or whatever you are, you don't turn your back on who you were. It becomes enveloped in who you are becoming. You don't lose it. In a weird way, you redeem it. When I go to visit grandma, I am still Andi. Or Andrea. (I prefer Andi.) It doesn't bother me for things to be that way because in Aidan, I have the grace for who I was. And that's fine. So as we move forward as a congregation, as a family, as a community, I don't think we lose the Franklin Church of Christ story. I think we redeem it. It is a part of who we are, a part of who we are becoming. And that's fine. The FCC story remains.
The Turning Point Church story begins. Real God. Real Life. Real People.