How Shall We Name Ourselves—Round #3

Greetings friends,

Thank you for your active participation in exploring possible names for our congregation as we emerge into this time of moving and change (See the May 6 eFlame Round #1 and June 3 eFlame Round #2 for the story up to this point).

At the lively Sunday Forum on June 9, we considered naming guidelines developed by April Kelsey and Rev. Andrew:

    1. It should identify us as a religious community (not a charity, club, or rec center).
    2. It shouldn’t be too long. It has to fit in our letterhead, site URL, and signs.
    3. It shouldn’t get us mistaken for other UU churches, organizations, or non-UU denominations.
    4. It shouldn’t be tied to a specific street or neighborhood in case we ever move again.
    5. Our acronym should be unique from other local UU churches (consider our neighbors WUU and CVUU), not too complicated, and not unfortunate-sounding. For example, we don’t want to be known as PUU (poo).
    6. Avoid (if possible) Unitarian Universalist at the front (lose info in Google search).
    7. Do not name after colonizers (King James, etc.).

With these in mind, we also discussed submitted names. We saw how those criteria helped us move from 60 names to a short list of nine items in three categories: geographic feature; city or region; and value-based. Then we talked more.

Two names had specified “Newport News.” But members who live outside Newport News report feeling ignored and forgotten with such a city-focused name. Further, discussion amplified that we seek a name that invites widely; participants felt that a name like Newport News Unitarian Universalists (N2U2) would be too limiting, however snazzy it had initially appeared.

Then, while the Racial Justice Committee had asked that we consider indigenous names (e.g., UUs of Powhatan or Kecoughtan UUs), sentiment was very strong in the Forum that naming after an indigenous nation could constitute cultural appropriation. It was reasoned, even if we were to receive approval from an Indigenous People, that would not assure that all peoples in that nation or in contiguous nations would similarly approve. Accordingly, we felt it more respectful to remove indigenous names from our evolving roster.

Here’s where we are right now:

Region based

    1. First Unitarian Universalist, Tidewater
    2. First Unitarian Universalist, Virginia Peninsula
    3. Tidewater Unitarian Universalists. (TUU)
    4. Unitarian Universalists of the Virginia Peninsula (UUVP)
    5. Keep UUFP

 Values based

    1. Beloved Community of Hampton Roads, Unitarian Universalist (BCHR)
    2. Beloved Community, Unitarian Universalist (BCUU)
    3. All Souls of Hampton Roads, Unitarian Universalist (ASHR)
    4. Spirit of Life—Hampton Roads, Unitarian Universalist (SoLHR)
    5. Unitarian Universalist Seekers (UUS)
    6. Solace Unitarian Universalists

If you think of it, considering how to call ourselves is part of the rebranding already begun through our new website (Thank you to April Kelsey!). Our name is a way to announce our presence, mission and vision in the broader community.

To that end, over the next few months, we will invite you all to consider questions like:

    1. What do we want to be known for?
    2. What is our passion, collectively, as a Unitarian Universalist congregation?
    3. How shall we be seen and recognized in the community?

This will help with more broadly launching ourselves in our new home, and it may help with discerning a new name. We’re exploring! Here’s the link for name ideas. How would you name our essence?

Look for cottage meetings where we can all share our thoughts and feelings, a town hall, and a wrap-up sometime early, perhaps September, after Rev. Andrew returns. And of course, we may choose to remain UUFP.

In the meantime, there’s tons to do to get ready for our move—look for a sign-up form from Rachel Bevins on the diverse ways you can be involved!

Thank you, all, for all you do and for all you are.

In community,

Bek Wheeler
President, UUFP

Grow in Wonder ~ Connect in Love ~ Engage in Service ~ Inspire Generosity


  • Michele Hirsch

    Can we show “Keep UUFP” separately or as its own category rather than last under the “Region Based” category?

  • Bek Wheeler

    But the name IS region based… UU Fellowship of the Peninsula — I will think about this. Thank you for the comment

  • Marcy Stutzman

    A couple comments:
    1) Calling us First UU is not really different than starting with UU, which is not desirable according to #6 in the criteria list (and aren’t we a spinoff of Williamsburg UU, not first in tidewater or the Virginia peninsula since Wbg is between the York and James too).
    2) The descriptive words in the second group may age badly as our best terms for values change regularly – beloved community is a very popular term now, but may not be in 5 years.
    3) I personally am in favor of staying with UUFP, and wonder if a large silent majority of the congregation not participating in these forums is of the same opinion. We have so many things we _must_ do, is this really another critical decision we have to make at this moment? It will cause an enormous amount of work in changing bylaws, every policy, website, finding another url (instead of that is available, all social media, and other things I haven’t thought of, at a time when we are stretched thin with vital changes required by the move. It can be done, but should it?

  • Bek Wheeler

    Marcy, thank you for these comments. You are quite right about the First UU name. For that reason it would be removed. But it was suggested at Forum so I included it.

    We will be mindful of the longevity of descriptive words.

    And your point is well taken about potential silent majority… (however if folks have viewpoints, gee, we really need participation). Nonetheless, we may be doing some more focused envisioning in July as described in this eFlame. And then my thought is to do a full congregation survey, and plead for responses on a thumbs up or thumbs down on whether to proceed. That is, say, at the end of July, does a majority want to keep UUFP as name, or does a significant majority want to continue the reflection. Thank you for that point. If a majority wants to keep UUFP as a name at that point, I would call it off, appreciate participation and remove name consideration from the table. So, let’s give it the month of July, ok?

  • Marcy Stutzman

    (This was caught in the spam filter and is a late post of a comment)

    Hi Bek: I’ve also branded and rebranded dozens of organizations, colleges, businesses, etc., as a marketing professional and consultant, and here’s my two cents about the name:

    It MUST be short, unique and memorable. Most of these names are waaaaay too long. Avoid prepositional phrases in the name because they are weak and unnecessarily make the name too long. They do not roll off the tongue. If you choose something like Unitarian Universalists of the Virginia Peninsula, people will automatically shorten it to Peninsula Unitarian Universalists. The denomination is already TOO long, so you need to keep any additional words to a minimum.
    It MUST tell you what you do/are. If the name itself doesn’t do that, then the tagline should.
    It MUST relate to something people can identify with. That means some of these suggested names that draw from historical names are not good. Powhatan, for example, is identified with Powhatan Parkway in Richmond. Nobody will get that connection. It must be immediately recognized. However, something like James River Unitarian Universalists tells you that it’s somewhere near the James (everything on the Peninsula is) and that it’s not limited to one city. Peninsula Unitarian Universalists also works for this reason.

    Obviously, it’s up to you all. I’m leaving and shouldn’t have that much say. I’m just basing this on my 40+ years of experience, so take what you like and leave the rest. I wish I had more time to devote to this, but I’m up to my eyeballs in alligators trying to sell my house and get my visa.

    With Love,

    P.S. You definitely need a better logo. I know you need to use the UU symbol, but it could be rendered in color to make it bold and exciting. The type is very anemic-looking.

  • Meg Glenn-Albiez

    Fellowship means sharing of similar interests, ideals, or experiences . And friendship and comradeship. If we thought of Fellowship this way we would not need to change our name. Hopefully, we UUs are independent enough to give this serious consideration. Meg

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *