From St. Adalbert to St. Zachary

flippinchurchThere is a church in my neighborhood that has some bizarre combination of names like Mt. Calvary Holy Trinity Apostolic Church for Believers. My friends and I like to imagine what strange set of events led a church to have that name. Was that its original name? Was it a merger of multiple churches? So I was inclined to like Art Golab's piece in Monday's Chicago Sun-Times. He surveyed the names of churches from eight denominations in a six county area and presented his findings. St. Paul is the most popular name for churches named after saints. And "First" is the most popular overall.

The findings are somewhat unsurprising. Lots of Catholic churches named for Mary. Many names include the town or neighborhood where the church is located. Concept names ("Holy Trinity") were particularly popular among Lutherans, and:

Catholic, Episcopalian and Lutheran churches were the most likely to be named after saints.

However, Lutherans favored far fewer individual saints than Catholics. Of 105 Lutheran churches named for saints, only 11 had one-of-a-kind saint names.

Of 273 Catholic churches named for saints, 198 were one-of-a-kind for the six-county area, ranging from St. Adalbert to St. Zachary.

The big problem with the story was . . . so what? I love that Golab did the survey but the analysis was somewhat predictable (Catholics like the Blessed Mother, Lutherans like St. Paul). How hard would it be to spice up the story by including some real people at real congregations?

If I were going to do a story for the Washington area, I'd definitely include some color from my neighborhood church of many names, St. Athanasius Lutheran, and Ascension and Saint Agnes. Actually, maybe enterprising reporters should just repeat Golab's story for their evergreen file -- but make sure to include some more interesting angles.

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