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Column: Playing the name game

The Ven Michael Everitt, Archdeacon of Lancaster
The Ven Michael Everitt, Archdeacon of Lancaster
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What does your name mean? Choosing the name of a baby can be quite a difficult task, there are countless books and websites on baby names.

We all have favourite names and ones which, for whatever reason, we struggle with to overcome our preconceptions or views.

For example, all the ‘Sebastians’ I have met have been quite wealthy and all the ‘Ednas’ are of a certain age. My Christian name and surname both have interesting meanings. ‘Michael’ is ‘Who is like God.’ It is the name of an archangel mentioned in the Bible; the leader of the heavenly host.

I don’t think that my parents necessarily had angels in mind when they named me. Turning to my surname, it means ‘wild boar hunter’. While I HAVE visited the Bowland Wild Boar Centre, near Chipping, I hasten to add I did NOT seek to live up to my surname while there!

My surname did help me when I was teaching in South Africa. In Sesotho, your surname is expected to reflect your personality or describe you in some way.

It is not dissimilar to either a nickname or being encouraged to do well and ‘live up to the family name’.

Thus, while a wild boar hunter hinted at an outdoor lifestyle, I turned it round to its ‘soundalike’ (or phoneme) and sought to ensure my students didn’t ‘bore’ me. It gave me permission to be ruthless with their presentations, for a hunter is not gentle!

Living up to my Christian name is more taxing. While Christians believe all humanity is made in the image and likeness of God, we also recognise there is much about us which has taken the shine off the original creation.

It brings me up short when I realise I am not always like God. When I used to take lots of weddings, couples often asked for the Bible reading from 1 Corinthians, verse 13.

This is a powerful poem on what love is like. If you have been to a wedding you will, I’m sure, have heard it before:

‘Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, and it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking nor easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs.

For me to live up to my name, I need to be one who is patient, kind, etc; for then I am being one ‘who is like God’. Called and known by name - not just by those around me, but by God as well.