120-Year-Old Church In Illinois Drops ‘Baptist’ From Name Due to ‘Negative Stereotypes’

First Baptist Church of Geneva recently renamed itself Chapelstreet Church, dropping its denomination from the name as “an unnecessary barrier to experiencing God’s grace.” The name change is reflected at its two campuses, 2300 South St., and at 3435 Keslinger Road Geneva.

After 120 years, the First Baptist Church of Geneva has rebranded itself to be called Chapelstreet Church, dropping the denomination from its name in order to be more welcoming to people, officials said.

“We are remaining a Baptist church,” Pastor Jeff Frazier said. But taking “Baptist” away from the church’s formal name “removes an unnecessary barrier to experiencing God’s grace.”

“We know and love what it is to be Baptists – and it’s a wonderful thing. But the culture at large – for many, not all – it’s a bit of a deterrent,” Frazier said. “There are all kinds of associations. The perceptions in the culture are negative. Baptists are known by what they are against in our culture. … We wanted a name that removed unnecessary barriers and sounded inviting and lined up in some way with our mission as a church.”

The word “chapel” refers to a smaller house of worship connected to a larger body, he said, which was perfect for how the Geneva church sees itself.

“We are not changing who we are in our heritage and tradition,” Frazier said. “We are not changing our identity.”

This is not the first time the church has changed its name, as when it was founded in 1894 by a group of 10 Swedish immigrants, it was the First Swedish Baptist Church of Geneva, officials stated in a news release.

The church’s own denomination, Baptist General Conference, also dropped “Baptist” in a name change to Converge Worldwide in 2008, and then renamed itself again in 2015 to Converge, according to its website, converge.org.

With 1,800 to 2,000 attending worship every week at the Geneva church, the congregation was just too large for a formal vote on a name change, Frazier said.

Instead, the congregation offered name change submissions for consideration to its board and leadership team, which ultimately decided on Chapelstreet Church, Frazier said. The church also hired an outside marketing firm to help communicate the rebranding, he said.

“For many people in our community, we have a good reputation,” Frazier said. “And people on the inside love who we are. We are changing the name for those who are not here yet.”

No one has left the church over the name change that he knows of, Frazier said.

“They might have quietly left, but most are pretty excited about the change,” Frazier said.

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SOURCE: Kane County Chronicle
Brenda Schory