What's in a name?

What's in a name? Shakespeare reckoned that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but what if it were renamed the Lesser Stinkwort?
Recently I had a conversation about the blessing we sing at church when someone is baptised or married:
The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you. The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.
When I first came across this prayer, I was told its name was the Aaronic Blessing, because God gave it to Moses' brother Aaron to bless God's people - you can look the story up in the Book of Numbers. I liked that, because it took me back through story and history to God's age-old care for God's people. Others, however, aren't so happy with it being anchored by that name in the Hebrew Bible, the book chronicling a history of violence and conflict still echoing today throughout the Middle East. They would rather attach its message of love to Jesus and the God whom he called Father. The snag with that is that Jesus' only Bible, the only scriptural way he knew about God, was the Hebrew Bible, so we're stuck with it as part of the data. (And it has some amazing things to say about God's justice, too!)
But again the choice of name makes a difference. Christians used to call the Hebrew Bible the ‘Old Testament', the prequel to our New Testament - which indicates it's our book, just not as good as the sequel with Jesus in. The current name, however, reminds us that it comes from another religion, Judaism: that though we believe God's revelation comes through it, we can't co-opt the Hebrew Bible into meaning whatever we Christians would like it to mean.
What about the name of our church? Does that make a difference, too? Or, to be accurate, the names of our church, for over the years we have gathered a few. I still come across people who call us ‘the Scottish church' - which must be a little irritating for the people from Northern Ireland and England who've worshipped here faithfully through the years! When the church was founded, our official name was ‘St Andrew's Presbyterian Church', as the Scottish soldiers whose regiment was stationed here found a home from home to worship in their accustomed way. But for over thirty years, since in 1972 Presbyterian and Congregational churches united in England, our name has been ‘St Andrew's United Reformed Church'.
I suspect most people who visit our church have little interest in the name over our door. They want to know whether they will find a welcome with us. Yet I'd still argue that the name we give ourselves is significant. We can be proud of our church's Presbyterian heritage. But where we currently are is in the URC, and we can be proud of that too. Just taking two facts at random, through our Commitment for Life programme, we are the largest denominational giver to Christian Aid. And because we believe that women and men are equally called to God's work, we have chosen two women - a minister and an Elder - as our national representatives for the next two years.
But, you may be objecting, the URC is only half our name. What about St Andrew? Doesn't he get a look-in? Yes indeed, he does. For the fundamental thing about Andrew is that he was a friend and follower of Jesus. And that's the crucial thing about all of us, whatever name we prefer.
Sarah Hall

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