Letter from the Name Task Force Proposing a New Name for our Congregation
Last Spring, the Name Task Force was charged by the UCS Board of Trustees to canvass the congregation to determine whether our current name, The Unitarian Church in Summit, reflects our mission; who and what we represent. We wanted first to listen to one another – the entire congregation – with open minds and hearts so that we could answer the Board’s charge with an accurate assessment and make a recommendation on a path forward.
We conducted detailed interviews with more than 60 members in small focus groups and open sessions. We followed those conversations up with a validation survey and we received more than 150 responses.
In October 2016, we reported our research results in two Town Hall meetings and posted our findings online. A significant majority of respondents felt strongly that we should maintain our association with our Unitarian identity. We also received numerous comments in favor of adding “Universalist” to our name. “Summit” is seen as a practical locator term, and there is an overwhelming desire to maintain it in our name.
However, more than 50% of survey respondents shared that they do not believe our current name represents our mission and 55% do not like the term “church” in our name.
Adding to this, a 2015 Pew Research study on “America’s changing religious landscape” points to a significant rise in people of non-Christian faiths and unaffiliated religious identity. These trends suggest an opportunity for UCS, a non-creedal faith, to open our doors wider to our own congregation as well as a growing number of neighbors who are “UU’s who just don’t know it yet.”
We believe that what you told us and what outside research points us toward is that it is time to consider a name change.
In November 2016, we expanded our Name Task Force to include the Leadership Team–Emilie, Robin, and Tuli– and our Communications Committee. Together we held a full-day, facilitated workshop. As we considered several naming scenarios, we continuously referred back to your input. We tried to echo your words as we brainstormed and imagined a name that speaks to our mission.
Each of us rallied around the idea that our mission calls us together; that inclusion, feeding of the human spirit and the aspiration to bring healing to broken hearts and spirits is like a brilliant beam of light penetrating the darkness of despair and cynicism.
We arrived at a name that our Name Task Force believes reflects who our congregation is now and our place in the world…while being inclusive of all who are seeking the same.
Our proposed new name for our spiritual home is:
The Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Summit
- We saw our symbol of the flaming chalice as a manifestation of the light that reflects our mission.
- We considered other visual examples of light like the steeple above our sanctuary that can be seen at night in the surrounding neighborhood as a refuge for peace and hope.
- We reflected on our connection to Summit’s hilltop beacon, one of a chain of 23 flares built on mountains from Trenton to Sandy Hook during the American Revolution, to let fellow patriots know that the battle against tyranny and oppression was alive and well.
- We visualized a lighthouse casting its beacon out through the dense fog and darkness to ships in the distant horizon, telling sailors they were close to home, or to guide them safely to their destination.
- Adding the dimension of sound, we considered the sonar beacon — an underwater device which transmits sonic or ultrasonic signals for the purpose of providing bearing information for navigators.
Among the many advantages we see in adopting this name is the appeal we believe it will have in the years to come, among people who will be navigating a society on the precipice of a dark time; in which meanness, bullying, aggression, intolerance, and greed may become mainstays of daily life; unfolding not just on Twitter, but in our schools, businesses, streets, and neighborhoods. We believe it will be more important than ever to light a bonfire on our “summit” – a beacon to pierce through the darkness.
Our Name Task Force is unanimous in our excitement about our proposed name. We have also presented the concept to the Board of Trustees who are unanimous in their enthusiasm. But we are not finished with our work.
Throughout January 2017, we will be having many conversations about our proposed name.
We invite you to attend the January 15th services in which Rev. Robin will focus on our proposed name (which is also livestreamed from our website). That Sunday and the week following the Name Task Force will be hosting eight presentations providing the background, research, and rationale for our proposed new name with ample time for dialogue.
In-Person Presentations are:
- Sunday, January 15 at 10:45 am or 12:30 pm
- Tuesday, January 17 at 12 pm or 6:30 pm
- Thursday, January 19 at 6 pm or 7:30 pm
- Sunday, January 22 at 12:30 pm or 6:30 pm
Zoom Online Presentations are: Thursday, January 19 at 9 pm OR Friday, January 20th at 9 am or 12 pm (You must register in advance.)
To attend a presentation, please sign up in the UCS lobby, by clicking this LINK, or by contacting the UCS office (908-273-3245, firstname.lastname@example.org).
We are committed to ensuring every interested member will have an opportunity to engage and give feedback. If you are unable to attend any of these multiple opportunities, materials will be made available upon request by contacting the UCS office (908-273-3245, email@example.com). If we need more presentations, we will schedule them.
I look forward to our continuing dialogue in the coming weeks!
Dennis Manion, Chair, The Name Task Force
Name Task Force: Carolyn Baldacchini, David Gordon, Janina Hecht, Khurrum Malik, Colette Parsons, Dennis Manion – Chair, Laura Buoncuore- Board Liaison
Extended Task Force Members: Susan Schickedanz & Jean Crichton
UCS Leadership Team: Rev. Emilie Boggis, Tuli Patel, Rev. Robin Tanner