What the Names on Our Church Rolls Say

Sylvia PoggioliIra Glass, Sylvia Poggioli, Neda Ulaby, Kai Ryssdal, Jim Zarroli, Korva Coleman, Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, Dina Temple-Raston.

NPR fans know these fabulous names. We wake up to their voices.  Their stories inform and entertain us on the way to work. They reflect everything from name hypothesization trends to racial-ethnic diversity.  Yes, the NPR staff includes more common (to people in the U.S.) names like Michelle Norris (although she pronounces it MEE-shell) but most of their names reflect global poetry and the diversity of 21st Century life.

This article makes the point that – if we look over the names of our co-workers, neighbors, etc. – we might find that NPR names are not so different from the names of people we work with or live among.

I would say that this is not the case if we live in rural Nebraska or Kansas.  But I could be wrong about that.

Just for fun, take a look at the list of surnames in your church rolls.  Do they include the most common surnames in North America (Smith, Jones, Davis, Thompson)?  Do your rolls also include such common North American names as Gonzales, Garcia, and Cruz?  Do the rolls include twenty people with the same last name? (That’s a special kind of ministry.) Any Wangs?  Kims?  Nguyens?  Smirnovs? Məmmədovs? Wójciks?  Singhs? Khourys? Effiongs?

As I ponder what the church will look like in the next decade and beyond, I believe that our rolls will sound more like the NPR staff roster than the names on the church rolls of my childhood.  At least, this is my hope.

Image of Sylvia Poggioli.  Nobody says her name with more flair than Sylvia Poggioli.

3 responses to “What the Names on Our Church Rolls Say

  1. Konjoh, Finjap, Takuh


  2. I’m curious as to your thoughts on ethnic churches and congregations. I often attended an Armenian Presbyterian church as a child, and the (American) Presbyterian church I grew up in now hosts several ethnic congregations. I like how these congregations value and integrate the culture of its worshippers, and likely increase outreach to non-traditionally-Presbyterian communities, but I worry their status as separate entities may encourage segregation within the church as a whole.


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