For thirty years of teaching, I endured my students trying to call me other "titles" besides the one that I wanted: Mr. Plunkett. Many of them tried to call me "Mr. P" but I pointed out that it sounded funny; because I mostly taught elementary school children, they quickly recognized what I meant and did not call me that. Other times, I had a few who attempted to call me by my first name; I have always thought that was inappropriate because I believe it makes the teacher sound like their buddy, so I didn't allow that. Many of my Hispanic students, especially the boys, would just stop at "Mister"...although this amused me, I still insisted on them calling me by my entire name - Mr. Plunkett.
Now, after eleven years of study, discernment, committees, and PAPERWORK, I am finally an ordained and installed pastor of a Presbyterian church. Now there are several titles to choose from:
- "Pastor" - I admit that I like this one, but I am not sure I can adequately describe why. Whenever I hear it, I immediately hear trust in the voice of whoever says it. It is a polite term, a friendly term, and it is a term that I heard many times directed at ministers I knew and admired.
- "Reverend" - This may be what I am now, but I don't really like it. It sounds too stuffy, too stiff, too formal. I used to be called "Rev" by a few friends I knew way back when I was not even considering a move to ministry; it is a lot more informal and familiar than "Reverend" but it depends on who is saying it.
- "Mr. Plunkett" - Now when I hear this title, I admit I am surprised. I hear "teacher" when this one comes up. I will answer to this one, but it never comes up in a church setting.
- "Teaching Elder" - Okay...I get the reasoning and the theology behind the PCUSA denomination now calling their installed ministers by this title. It says that we are no better than anyone else; we are on the same ordained level as "Ruling Elders" and "Deacons" - the two other ordained positions in our church. I like the intention here, but this title has not caught on yet. Perhaps it will over time, but somehow I doubt it. I know PLENTY of ordained ministers who refuse to let these words come anywhere near them!
- "Brother" (got this part from Brother Ken!) - To me that carries meaning on several levels:
** Brother in Christ
** An historical term of respect from days of monks and monasteries (but I think that living in solitude is not a good thing -- and we like your wife!)
** Recognition of more than a casual connection
** Implied kinship bestowed on someone special; nature provides biological brothers for whom we may have varied range of affection. Bestowing this on a friend includes both respect and affection.
- "Mark" - It's my name. I like it when the elders at our church call me that. I like it when the little kids call me that. I like it when the junior and senior high kids call me that. I like it when the older members call me that. There is no title, no authority, no expectations. I am just plain Mark - and I am your friend. So call me "Mark."