Tuesday, April 3, 2012

What Should They Call Me Now?



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."

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