Holiness in our midst – Session 32

Holiness in our Midst


“Share about your name.”

The first time I heard this topic as a group ice-breaker was in a conference room overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in Daytona Beach, FL in 2006. I was representing mission educators at the Education and Ministries Leadership Commission of the National Council of Churches. The scene was memorable, and so were the stories shared in my small group. The other six members of my group had parents born in other countries. Our names reflected our heritages and parental hopes, as well as whimsical decisions at the moment of birth. The sharing was rich and deep.

About my name? I am Janis Ellen Pyle, the second child of Lloyd and Ruth LaVonne (Albright) Pyle. My parents said that my older sister Janet Eileen turned out so cute and nice they wanted to name me a similar name. They also liked “J” names. My other siblings are Jill Beth and Jerry Joloyd (a combination of my grandfather’s and father’s names). An interesting fact: When I live in Iowa, I have to change my name. I become a full-time “Janis” to avoid family confusion. Both Janet and I have nicknames of “Jan.”

I’ve always liked my last name. “Pyle” is a nice writerly name. The most famous “Pyle” writers, illustrator/author Howard Pyle and World War II war correspondent Ernie Pyle, have even influenced my style. People ask me all the time if I am related to Ernie Pyle. I answer: “I haven’t researched the connection, but I am related to him ‘in spirit.’”

When I traveled widely for several years, I loved to hear my name spoken with other accents. Like in a British accent at London’s Heathrow Airport. One “name story” was life-changing: In southern Sudan, our delegation of 12 introduced ourselves to a group of women. Two days later, they remembered my name, without prompting. “Jan-NEESE, thank you for traveling far to visit us in our desperate plight,” they said. Since then, I have been more attentive about remembering the names of people I meet and eliciting the stories behind them. There is power and beauty in being called and calling others by name. It is one way I can treat others with deep respect toward building lasting relationships.

STORY CIRCLE QUESTION: What is the story behind your name?


  1. Read the above reflection.
  2. Write a journal reflection on the story behind your name. Have you ever changed your name? Do you like your name?


  1. Read aloud Session XXXII.
  2. Ask each person to answer the Story Circle Question.