1Why should Colonial change its name?
The association of the word “colonial” to the word “colonialism” is way too close for a large number of people. Admittedly, not all of us readily make that connection. But for those who do, being a part of a community that is not aware of the connection is not something they find appropriate. Colonialism means “the policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country, occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically”. A definition not particularly in sync with Christian values. We cannot be a church that ignores and remains silent when it comes to issues like slavery, the displacement of indigenous people and still feel like we are following God’s direction. If the name suggests that we are silent then the name needs to be changed. Among our Core Values is "Welcome, Beloved." This means we believe that every person is a beloved child of God, and we embrace every person like that. We believe that, for many, our name exists in conflict with that Core Value. So, we want to clear up who we are to our neighbors and remove the barrier so we can know, love, and partner alongside them for the next 75 years of our life together.
2What does this NOT mean?
This doesn't mean that we live in a bad country. And it doesn't mean that our church is a bad church, either. It's our identity as a Congregational church, in fact, that gives us full permission to follow Jesus wherever he leads, even when the path ahead feels messy, risky, and full of unknowns. It also doesn't mean that we're erasing the last 75 years of our history. Our church has always been more than our name. It's our people. It's our stories. And perhaps more than anything, it's our history of God's faithfulness among us. That never changes.
3Why now… during this turbulent time when we aren’t gathering face to face very much?
God seems to be leading our church into a new dynamic future. We have invested in our youth leadership in order to engage more youth and young families. We have invested in our “missions” with the addition of Paul Bertelson and the Blessing Initiative. We have planned to be intentional in our being a welcoming place. And we have committed to a new initiative of being a “Good Neighbor,” not just for a year but as a vision for our future. To wait on any of these leadings seems to thwart where God is taking us. Our name is a valuable tool for our future. And, if it has baggage with some people waiting another year or two seems counterproductive. If we are going to be a “new church” then let’s get ready for it now… given that we give people plenty of time to express their opinions. Please take time to express yours. You can send an email to email@example.com or by calling the Church Office at 952.925.2711.
4Does our current name cause problems for our partners?
At least for some, the answer is yes. Fair Anita, an Innove protégé and prominent mission partner, offices in our building. Joy McBrien, founder of Fair Anita, has said they now use a Post Office Box for their mail. Having Colonial Way as a mailing address was problematic for the people and organizations with whom she works. Dave and Sherry Hall have found the name to be limiting in their work with our Muslim neighbors.
5Where do we stop, do we have to get rid of every reference to the Pilgrims?
Definitely not. The Pilgrims, the Mayflower ship, and the Plymouth Rock aren’t the problem. The exploitation of Africa, slavery, and the colonialism of other countries are the problem and a name connected to these activities should not be a burden any church should bear. While the Pilgrims took land from Native Americans, they were not a country stripping another country of their people and other resources. We are not wishing to erase history. We are simply addressing the broader implications of our name.
6Shouldn’t the church leadership be more neutral on this issue?
The leadership of the church, Council and staff, are in agreement that the best thing for the church moving forward is to move to a name that is free from negative, social, baggage. As such, they want us to make this change. Having leadership take a positive role in where the church should go is why we elect them to their positions. Being advocates for important decisions is not new. Our moving to a new building, involvement in Africa, a television ministry, and most recently our need for a new organ were all a result of the leadership of the church initiating and advocating for these issues.
7How will changing the name make us a more welcoming church?
Some people associate the word “Colonial” with “colonialism,” the oppression and exploitation of indigenous people, primarily for financial gain. So it’s understandable that they might not feel welcome in a community that uses that name, especially if they are Black, indigenous or people of color. Changing our name would tell the world that we understand the message our current name sends, whether we want it to or not, and that it is not the message we want to send. We care enough about other people that we are willing to sacrifice something important to us – our name! – for their good. A lot of welcome can be found in that attitude.
8Do some people really think it is an offensive name?
Unfortunately, yes. Some are offended by a name they associate with the exploitation of other people, especially Black and Indigenous people. Others have good personal connections with the name and at the same time see the pain it brings to some of their neighbors and are offended on their behalf.
9Why would we ever have a name that is offensive to some people?
Because it’s not offensive to many of us, or to the people we know. We don’t think of “colonialism” when we think of Colonial Church. It’s the name of the church we love - nothing more and nothing less. Our challenge is to move beyond what we think and put ourselves in the shoes of our neighbors who don’t have the positive associations with the church that we have.
10Can a new name help us move forward in a new way?
We think a new name can help us in at least two ways. First, it removes an obstacle to ministry. Some people won’t consider having anything to do with a church named Colonial. Too much baggage. And with at least some of those who will enter into dialogue with us, we spend the first part of the conversation explaining that our name does not equate with our beliefs – that we don’t associate ourselves with the systematic occupation, exploitation, and dispossession of Indigenous groups that characterizes colonialism. Second, a new name is a symbol to ourselves that these are new days. We have a fresh vision of what being God’s people can mean for ourselves, in our community and in the world. That’s exciting!
11What is this task force that has been formed?
Because this issue is new to so many people, communication is key. Some people needed to hear how some other people have real difficulty with the name, and some people needed to hear how important the name was to other people. Writing the position paper, providing forms for people to express their opinions, and encouraging discussions takes time and effort. The task force was created to carry out these tasks.
12What’s the timeline?
The Council has voted to call a congregational meeting to vote on whether or not to change our name for January 10, 2021. The official meeting notice has been given in the Name Change Process letter sent out the week beginning September 27th via USPS and email. Between now and January 10th, 2021, we will offer a variety of opportunities to discuss this question, including town hall meetings and smaller group discussions. We anticipate that these discussions will take place with some people gathering in person, with others participating virtually.
13Has a new name been chosen?
No! The congregation will vote on a new name. The council created a task force around the question of changing our name, and one of its jobs is to come up with potential new names. The Council’s original name change motion implied that the congregation would vote on the idea of changing our name and what the new name would be at the same congregational meeting. The Council recently clarified that these are separate issues that would be voted on at separate congregational meetings.
14Is this a done deal?
Absolutely not! We are a Congregational church and, according to our bylaws, important matters like a name change require a 2/3 vote by the members.
15Why haven’t we done this long ago?
Good question! The idea of changing our name first arose a few years ago when Daniel Harrell was Senior Minister, and the idea didn’t get traction. The issue came to the forefront last spring, at which time we began a community conversation on the subject. Being a congregational church, it’s especially important to provide lots of opportunity for discussion and dialogue. That process takes time.
16What other organizations have changed their names? Why?
Yes! Here are a few examples. In July 2011, Campus Crusade for Christ in the United States announced that it was changing its name to Cru in order to overcome existing barriers and perceptions inherent in the original name, particularly among Muslim communities. A story in Christianity Today says, "It's become a flash word for a lot of people. It harkens back to other periods of time and has a negative connotation for lots of people across the world, especially in the Middle East," said Steve Sellers, the CCCI vice president and U.S. national director who is leading the name change project. "In the '50s, crusade was the evangelistic term in the United States. Over time, different words take on different meanings to different groups." In October 2020, longtime mission partner and Innove protégé The Sheridan Story changed its name to Every Meal. The organization’s website discusses why. “Since the beginning, we’ve strived to get food to kids that need it the most and in a manner that retains their dignity. Last month, we learned of a barrier to this goal – our namesake, Sheridan Elementary, is named after Philip Sheridan, who committed terrible acts against and made terrible statements about Indigenous peoples, playing a significant role in spreading racial stereotypes across the country. To best support the children and families in our community, including those from Indigenous backgrounds, we’ve decided to change the name of the organization.” Churches and denominations have also changed their names when they believe that such a change furthers their mission and the living and sharing of the Gospel with their neighbors. In our own area, for instance, Edina Baptist long ago changed their name to Grace Church so that they could orient themselves for growth and remove impediments to people investigating the church, Wooddale Baptist became Wooddale Church, and the Baptist General Conference is now known as Converge Worldwide. These are just a few examples, but in every instance, they changed their name so as to build bridges to their neighbors and better share the good news of Jesus’ love with others, removing the stumbling blocks that might have prevented this work.
17How can I express my opinion or ask questions?
You can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling the Church Office at 952.925.2711.