We have officially and publicly changed our church name from “Nast Community UMC” to “Over-the-Rhine Community Church”. While this is an exciting step in our calling as a new church start, continuing to grow into a community church for Over-the-Rhine and the city of Cincinnati, this shift can bring with it many questions. To serve as a source of clarity around this decision, I’d like to share some of the reasons behind the name change, as well as plans to maintain our connection to the historic Nast-Trinity UMC.
This decision has been a remarkably collaborative process. Over-the-Rhine Community Church has been blessed with many profoundly devoted people who are truly committed to what God is doing in Over-the-Rhine. The name change came out of significant conversation and reflection among the church’s Launch Team, made up of 9 leaders from the church and myself. The purpose of this collaboration was to insure that significant changes, such as this name change, had ownership from the church community.
The primary reason for this name change is to better reach the current demographic of Over-the-Rhine. The name “Nast-Trinity” still carries much familiarity and appreciation among the faithful church-goers who have been affiliated with this historic community for decades and even generations. However, for many of the residents of Over-the-Rhine, both new and long-term, who do not identify with a church community, the name and history of Nast-Trinity is simply unknown. While these assumptions should not cast a negative light on the history of Nast-Trinity UMC, they do represent a disconnection between the church and those outside of the church.
While the heritage belonging to the name Nast-Trinity is significant and unique, maintaining it as the primary identifier of this local church has been causing unfortunate stumbling blocks to connecting with the community. Eliminating confusion and clarifying who we are as a church for the neighborhood of Over-the-Rhine will allow us to more fluidly touch the lives of the people living here. This is the primary reason for the Launch Team’s decision to change the church name to Over-the-Rhine Community Church.
With that said, this decision was made with the caveat that we would do all we could to maintain a rich and active appreciation for our historic heritage. So far, ideas for maintaining the history of Nast-Trinity have been including historic information on the new website, renaming the sanctuary or Gathering Place “Nast Memorial”, and including this information in future new membership classes, so that anyone joining this church will know where we began. This is where the historic information, much of which has been maintained by Hyde Park Community UMC, will prove invaluable in this transition. I truly believe that by changing the name to a neutral Over-the-Rhine Community Church, we will be able to be more intentional in remembering our living heritage as the first German-Methodist Church.
In response to our connection with the United Methodist Church, the title “UMC” was left off the new name of Over-the-Rhine Community church intentionally. The reason for this is that the primary demographic moving into Over-the-Rhine tends to, at best, not identify with a church denomination and, at worst, has had negative experiences with denominations and, therefore, may initially be turned off by a church tied to one. In light of this reality, the Launch Team decided the simple title “Over-the-Rhine Community Church”, would best represent the church we are hoping to become. The bottom line is that we’re hoping to make this church as welcoming and hospitable to the community as possible, while not losing our theological and heritage integrity.
Over-the-Rhine Community Church is and will continue to be a United Methodist Church. We are in full connection to the district, conference and overall Church and have no intention of hiding that component of our identity. It will be clear in any information about the church on the website, and we will maintain all of the UMC policy, theology, and doctrine.
Dropping UMC from the front sign is simply a way of being able to control this part of our church identity in an environment where folks may have assumptions and misconceptions of what the UMC is.
I hope this information is helpful in understanding why we’ve made these changes and how we intend to appreciate and respect our identity as a United Methodist Church, coming from the historic Nast-Trinity UMC.
Pastor Ian Strickland