What's in a Name? The Legacy of Munholland

Britney Winn Lee
March 30, 2022

Names tell a story. Biblically, we witness the significance of naming or renaming, from Sarah and Israel to John and Paul. Societally, we feel the ripples of a name’s power when we hear words like Mandela, Zelinski, Malala, or Ferguson.

Zooming in more locally, our synapses fire for a variety of reasons when we simply read names like Burrow, Gambino, Ida, and Katrina. And on the most personal level, we dedicate lots of time and energy to choosing that for which our children, our pets, and our Instagram handles will be known.

Behind most names, there exist whole histories and shared hopes, inherited generosity or perpetuated trauma, tales of who we’ve been, and proclamations of who we want to become.

This is indeed true for a United Methodist Church in Metairie, Louisiana that goes by the name Munholland.

Susie May Munholland was among the small group of folks who gathered in 1936 in the auditorium of Metairie High School to form what was then known as the Metairie Methodist Church. Nearly nine decades ago, Munholland gave an unsparing amount (including her home) to start Munholland UMC, which she requested be named after her late husband—Rev. C.T. Munholland—and be a church focused on giving back to its community.

The congregation, however, was so moved by her incredible generosity, that they decided to name the church after Susie May as well.
“I would guess we don’t have many churches named after laywomen in our conference,” notes Sarah Kreutziger, chair of the Munholland Scholarship Committee.

Recently, Munholland celebrated its 85.5 (the half being thanks to Covid) birthday with a dialogue sermon, children’s chorus, second-line, and a party complete with Lemon Pie made from Mrs. Munholland’s recipe. But in true Munholland fashion, the celebration wouldn’t have been complete if it didn’t also include an investment into the future of the church—a formalized tradition of providing scholarships that is now almost 40 years old.
Kreutziger shares, “We celebrated Munholland’s fiftieth birthday in 1986 with a full year of festivities. Our committee bonded after so much work together that we wanted to continue to meet afterward. Tracy MacKenzie—then a young member of the committee, headed for seminary herself—suggested we use our resources to raise money for individuals in our congregation who also wanted to go to seminary or study sacred music."

"She suggested it be called The Susie May Munholland Scholarship Committee, and we started in 1987 with less than $2000 after committee members, Mike and Elaine Morgan and others, sacrificially donated their family Christmas money for the cause," Kreutziger continued. "We began yearly fundraisers that emphasized our heritage and slowly built the fund to a balance of around $165,000. Then this past year, one of our members, who was here when the fund started, passed away and left a million dollars, The Rev. Laney and Imogene Kuhn fund was added to the newly-named Wesleyan Educational Fund, giving us the resources we have to send our members into ordained ministry and financially help those who are seeking a call in church leadership. So now, an archives committee that started 36 years ago for a church that started 85.5 years ago has morphed into a Scholarship Committee that does historical celebrations in between sending people into ministry.”
What once began as a few thousand dollars is now providing significant seed and support for future faith leadership. And is this a surprise, coming from a body of folks that once began with a handful of people in an auditorium and now mobilizes church members through Habitat for Humanity workdays, Kairos Prison Ministries, Global 6Ks for Water, and discipleship ministries in Cameroon?

That now creates connection through Family Fun Days, “home church” opportunities for college students, and senior adult outings? That has now helped the city of New Orleans rebuild throughout the 17 years since Katrina? Surely, Susie May Munholland would be proud.
Lanterns decorated this year’s birthday party whose theme was “Let your Light Shine,” taken from Matthew 5:14-16: “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
With nearly 46 former pastors and members being invited, the celebration was attended by so many people that they ran out of food—not an ironic scene in this loaves-to-fishes story where a little love going a long way now precedes and follows the name Munholland.
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