What Shall We Name Ourselves?—Round 2

Friends, thank you for your inspiration and for sharing literally dozens of possible names for our congregation. From the April 28 Forum to our online Name Submission Form, to the name boxes in the Sanctuary and Office Building, you really came through! You shared over 50 possible names!

And each of these names comes special delivery with your good thoughts and love. What a collection! How to even process that many?

So, to make sense of such a long list, first, good English Professor Emerita that I am, I grouped by apparent categories:

    • Geographic Land Feature
    • City or Region
    • Values-based
    • Miscellaneous

Then, I called upon April Kelsey, our resident marketing and branding professional, for input. April laid out some general guidelines for choosing a good name:

    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).
These considerations eliminated names containing Unity, River of Life, Agape and The Walk (in use by Christian denominations); Point Comfort, Lucas Creek and Tabbs Lane (too neighborhood-specific); and Mission, Society, and Center (charity/club). April also pointed out that putting Unitarian Universalist first in our name loses most of the distinguishing information in a Google search:
A screenshot of Google Search results for "UU churches near me." Nearly all of them start with Unitarian Universalism, making them difficult to distinguish from each other.

So at the end of our exercise (without filtering out those starting with UU), 23 names remained.

Then we brought in our special religious naming expert, someone who’s been active in the denomination for decades and who has seen it all and engaged nationwide—our own Rev. Andrew. He shared other concerns April and I hadn’t identified.

For example, Rev. Andrew urged us NOT to name ourselves after “James,” a white colonialist and conqueror (as in James River Unitarian Universalists). Rachel Bevins said the same thing. For the beautiful Two Rivers UU and Three Rivers UU, Rev. Andrew notes that one is a congregation in Wisconsin and another is a congregation in Colorado. He then said, “Also, the whole list needs to be vetted to make sure there’s no other congregation using the same initials. There are at least three other UUFPs, and I get a lot of emails intended for their ministers!”

What to do for our Geological Feature category then? My bad, but I had failed to include suggestions from the Justice Committee to honor indigenous homelands. They suggested Unitarian Universalists of Powhatan (UUP). I added Powhatan River Unitarian Universalists (PRUU), as Andrew told me the James used to be called Powhatan River. And how about this: Kecoughtan Unitarian Universalists (KUU)!!! Rev. Andrew shared that Kecoughtan covers the area of Newport News, Hampton, Poquoson and York County. That name is geographically inclusive and would be totally unique to us as a UU congregation.

The Justice Team is contacting local indigenous and minoritized groups to see if any of these names bring unfortunate concerns, or if they might be righteous.

Goodness, what an overwhelming amount of detail! But if you would like more, please see the comments in the full list. In the meantime, how about a drumroll for the nine strong options we’d like to offer for your consideration:

Geographic Feature

    1. Powhatan River Unitarian Universalists (PRUU)
    2. Powhatan Unitarian Universalists
    3. Kecoughtan Unitarian Universalists (KUU)

City Name

    1. Newport News Unitarian Universalists (N2U2)
    2. Newport News Unitarian Universalist Community (NNUUC)
    3. Keep UUFP


    1. Beloved Community of Hampton Roads, Unitarian Universalist (BCHR)
    2. All Souls of Hampton Roads, Unitarian Universalist (ASHR)
    3. Spirit of Life—Hampton Roads, Unitarian Universalist (SoLHR)

As you can see, we have three options in each of three categories: Geographic Feature, City Name, Values-Based.

Now, with all these considerations, what say you? Do other ideas come to mind? Maybe come up with a couple and run them through the paces described above? If they sail over the hurdles, please share your name ideas here.

Then, I’ll hold a Follow-Up-Forum on “How Shall We Name Ourselves” (June 9) and a Wednesday night Beloved Community Conversation. Perhaps we will hold some cottage meetings or round-robin discussions at coffee hour for further discussion.

Thank you so much for engaging. Have fun, and stay tuned!


  • Gail Kent

    Hi Bec: 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. What you have looks very dated. 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.

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