Names Are Important

“There is no sound so sweet as the sound of one’s own name”, said William Shakespeare. And he’s right. People love to hear their name – it makes them feel wanted, needed, valued.

I love the thought that Jesus knows me by name. For Jesus, likening himself to a shepherd, declared that the good shepherd, “calls his own sheep by name” (John 10.3). It doesn’t matter how many billions of people there may be inhabiting this planet, Jesus knows me by name.

Today’s bureaucrats seem only able to distinguish amongst us by numbers. In my diary I have had to list my national insurance number, my passport number, my national heath service number. All too often when we phone a company, we are asked not for our name, but for our reference number. In today’s world it is increasingly difficult to remain a person

The story is told of how a census taker once asked a woman how many children she had. She began by saying: “Let’s see, there are Sally, Jimmy, Bob…” The census taker said: ‘No, no, don’t give me the names, just give me the numbers”. But in God’s sight we are never numbers, we are always names – we are always persons

But, there is a corollary. If God knows us by name, we too are to know one another by name. Jesus called us to love one another just as he loved us – and we cannot love one another as he loved us without knowing one another, and one another’s names. Names are important. Knowing the names of one another shows that we care for one another.

We sometimes talk of the church as a family. But what kind of a family are we if we do not know one another’s names? True, our church family is much larger than even our extended families; furthermore, there are always people coming and going. But this is all the more reason to make an effort to know one another’s names. ‘One new name a Sunday’ is my mantra.

Yes, for most of us it does take an effort. Dale Carnegie was right when he wrote “Most people don’t remember names, for the simple reason that they don’t take the time and energy necessary to concentrate and repeat and fix names indelibly in their minds”. I find it helps to repeat a name. Indeed, there is a lot to be said for repeating a person’s name at least three times – in this way allowing the look and the sound of the name to makes its way into our memory. Another tip is to write down the name of a new person – for that purpose I always carry around with me index cards.  

Inevitably there are times when we do forget names. On those occasions let’s not be too embarrassed to own up. On those occasions, with a big smile re-introduce yourself and say: “Sorry, my name is …., please remind me of your name”. 

It is precisely because names are important, that once a term we have a ‘Name Tag Sunday’., when everybody is asked to wear a label with their name. When we first began this custom, I thought we were pioneers, but I have since discovered that in the United States ‘Name Tag Sundays’ are quite common. According to one enthusiast, “Name Tag Sunday is the greatest day of all time. We all wear nametags and learn each others’ names. It is simply phenomenal”. Certainly, seeing (and not just hearing) a name, is a help to remembering a name. 

In researching the custom of holding a ‘Name Tag Sunday’, I came across the following recommendation:

Vary the badge theme by inviting guests to add one small (and brief) point of interest about themselves – this could be anything – the number of weeks or years they have been in the parish, their occupation, their hobby, their birthplace – anything that is important to them that their fellow family of God members may not already know about them.

I think that is a great idea. Furthermore, it is a great way of remembering one another’s names – for in my experience it is always easier to remember a name, if one can associate a piece of information with that name.

Names are important. Let’s deepen our fellowship with one another by learning and remembering one another’s names.

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